Teachers Prepare For Election at Elaine Kaufman Cultural Center

Volume CII, No. 10October, 2002

Summer Smith

Nearly seven months after teachers at the Elaine Kaufman Cultural Center (EKCC) filed for union representation, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has scheduled a vote. The Board planned to mail ballots to teachers around the end of September; faculty will have approximately two weeks to mail their votes back.

“Teachers have made it clear that we want to negotiate improved working conditions and benefits in a union contract,” said Morrie Sherry, who has been teaching clarinet at the EKCC for 13 years. “Management won’t recognize our signed union cards, but they have to let us vote.”

The employer spent several weeks at the NLRB attempting to limit the teachers’ voting rights, trying to split the faculty into two units and to exclude those at one unit who teach less than four hours per week. Citing other arts-related cases, the labor board soundly rejected all of the employer’s arguments and issued a decision upholding every teacher’s right to vote.

“The decision was a clear victory for us,” said Peggy Wiltrout, who has been teaching oboe for nine years at the EKCC. “It was heartening to read that the NLRB agreed that everyone on the faculty shares an interest in our work at the EKCC.”

The NLRB first issued a decision and direction of election on Aug. 9. The election, as specified in the ruling, was to be held within 25 to 30 days. When the labor board moved to hold the election according to the established time guidelines, however, the employer protested.

Despite having scheduled four faculty meetings in early- and mid-September, and a first-time-ever reception for faculty in the executive director’s private home on Sept. 12, the employer contended that teachers would not be in town and not be available to vote until late October or November. The administration asked the NLRB to postpone the election until then.

In response, 802 noted that the union filed the petition for election nearly six months ago. The union argued that the election should occur as soon as possible, in accordance with standard NLRB timelines, and should be conducted by mail ballot to ensure that every teacher is able to vote.

Teachers at the EKCC began organizing over a year ago, wanting a voice at work to address a lack of health insurance, pension, job security and meaningful raises.

(For updates on the campaign at the Elaine Kaufman Cultural Center, and to read the complete history of the campaign, go to the “Teaching Artists Unite!” section.)