Ohio University officials won’t yet commit to remaining neutral on efforts to form a faculty union

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — Ohio University leadership say they cannot yet commit to remaining neutral as faculty pursue their drive to form a union, and are also not yet convinced a majority of faculty support this union drive.

Ohio University's Cutler Hall on the first day of the semester.
Ohio University’s Cutler Hall on the first day of the semester. [Aaron Payne | Ohio Valley ReSource]

These positions were expressed in a March 7 letter from a university attorney to United Academics of Ohio University (UAOU), the group leading the unionization effort.

The letter was in response to a request from the UAOU organizing committee delivered to university President Lori Stewart Gonzalez last week after a rally on College Green.

The committee told Gonzalez its collections had surpassed the 30% threshold required to file a petition with the state to have the faculty form a union.

The committee asked that university leadership remain neutral on the unionization effort and also that the university voluntarily recognize UAOU, the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors as the exclusive representative for full-time faculty.

In his reply, the university’s senior associate general counsel, Michael Courtney, wrote that the university was not given enough information and was not provided with enough time to evaluate the requests.

“In order to appropriately ensure all voices of the University faculty employees are heard, it is imperative for University leadership to seek and require proof of majority support,” Courtney wrote.

In the meantime, Courtney wrote, “Ohio University will pledge that it will comply with regulations” in state law that govern the unionizing process.

UAOU sent out a statement to members the day after Courtney’s letter was sent, in which the organization noted that while the university did not agree to UAOU’s requests, it did agree to follow the law.

“This response was not entirely unexpected, and it does not deter us from continuing to move forward in securing our right to collectively bargain,” the statement noted.

The statement included that on Friday UAOU submitted more than 550 signed cards in support of a union along with a petition for a union election to the State Employment Relations Board, which oversees efforts by public employees to form a union.

If the board finds the petition is valid, it will schedule a unionization vote for Ohio University faculty members at a later date.