Union Organizers Cancel Upcoming Vote


VIA @polycommunityunion on instagram

Jess Dosik and Jordan Millar

An email sent out to the Poly Community from the Board of Trustees and Poly’s Leadership Team on Saturday May 13, just four days before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) union election was set to occur, announced the Poly Community Union’s decision to withdraw their petition for an election, which would have decided whether or not Poly Prep faculty and staff would form a union. The announcement, which marked the end of the unionization process as of now, came after over a year of conversations surrounding a potential union at the school and several months of campaigning from the Poly Community Union since its official establishment in the winter of 2021, according to their website.
According to the email from the Board of Trustees and Poly’s administration, “The NLRB will need to approve this request and we expect them to do so.” Since this email, the election has officially been canceled by the NLRB. Andrew Foote, chair of the Board of Trustees, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Head of School Audrius Barzdukas was unavailable for comment for the Polygon.

I heard them using the same phrases that we had been using — literally the exact. Security, transparency, accountability, equity. And they were communicating to us that they want those things, too,

— AJ Blandford

Leading up to the decision to withdraw the petition for an election, union organizers said they began to see a similarity between the desires of the Poly administration, Board of Trustees, and their own. 

“I heard them using the same phrases that we had been using — literally the exact. Security, transparency, accountability, equity. And they were communicating to us that they want those things, too,” said History Teacher and union organizer AJ Blandford. 

With the formation of a union, the organizers planned on creating “transparent and equitable pay scales, grievance policies, and provisions for job security, and giving faculty and staff a greater voice in management decisions that impact our working conditions,” according to an email sent by the union organizers to faculty on May 14. “I think that for many people in our community, seeing the Board of Trustees on campus meeting with us, asking questions, and taking notes led a lot of people to feel like they might enact some real substantive changes,” said Blandford. 

Instead of holding the vote, the Board of Trustees and the union organizers wrote a voluntary recognition agreement (VRA), which is a legally binding document that lays out an agreement with the Board and the union organizers’ rules and conditions for future plans regarding a union. 

From this point forward, known as the “Cooling Off Period,” the union organizers will not be able to campaign or attempt to organize a union in any way, shape, or form prior to March 15, 2024, according to a copy of the VRA obtained by the Polygon. However, as written by union organizers in the email to faculty “if the challenges we face as a school endure, the VRA sets out favorable conditions to form a more unified, healthy union in the near future.” Within seven days following the end of the Cooling Off Period, they are able to restart the campaigning process for a period of 45 days (the “Organizing Period”) after sending a written notice to Poly administration, which would include a list of eligible employees. These eligible employees, according to a copy of the VRA, would either be “all full time and regular part-time employees” or “all faculty and teachers.” However, “In the event that the Parties cannot mutually agree to the Unit (those who will be a part of the union), an anonymous survey will be sent to all full-time and regular part-time employees of Poly Prep to vote on the appropriate Unit… Any Unit will exclude all managers, confidential employees, temporary employees, guards, and supervisors,” according to a copy of the VRA. 

  As stated in the VRA, if the union organizers present valid signed authorization cards —  which are used to indicate support for the formation of a union — from 66 percent of the eligible employees, “Poly Prep will voluntarily recognize the Union as the exclusive representative of the Unit for purposes of collective bargaining,” without having to proceed to a vote like before. 

During the union campaign where a vote was needed, discussions of a union ignited conversations among faculty and the administration about the dynamic between them according to the Polygon article “Campus Buzzes With Talk of a Proposed Union” from the April issue. 

“The hope is that if that [card signing] is something that happens, those negotiations would be much less contentious than they might have been given the climate that existed here before the agreement,” said Blandford. 

Additionally, as outlined in the terms of the agreement, both parties must follow a code of conduct during the Organizing Period, ensuring that both Poly and the Poly Community Union do not “disparage either the motive or mission of the other Party or its representatives.” If the union organizers decide to again begin advocating for a proposed union, while the school is permitted to voice its stance and explain why they do not believe unionization would be in the school’s best interest, the school cannot “tell its employees not to sign an authorization card or not to support the Union,” and “may advise employees that they make their own decisions,” along with providing factual information and perspectives if and when employees were to make an informed decision, according to the rules laid out in the VRA. 

The agreement was signed on May 12, 2023 and is set to terminate on May 15, 2025.   

“I was really surprised when I found out that the union had withdrawn their petition because I feel like it kind of came out of nowhere. But at the end of the day I’m happy that…they’re going to try and find a solution that works for everybody, whatever form that is,” said Junior William Ling-Regan, the Opinions Editor of the Polygon. 

“I think the email that we received from the administration was a bit frustrating because it did not depict the entire situation and it came across as though the union simply withdrew their petition and nothing more. But there was more behind the scenes happening than what the administration let on, such as the union agreeing to a cooling off period and that the union would still revisit the possibility of a vote in the future,” said History Teacher Dr. Beth Eby. 

The details regarding the cooling off period and potential to revisit a vote were mentioned in the email sent by the union organizers to faculty.  

Poly administration wrote to the Poly community in an email, “We appreciate the time and effort that our community has spent asking essential questions and learning about a potential union at Poly. We will continue learning as we work collaboratively. As always, we are proud to be part of the Poly Prep community and know that our best days are still ahead.” 

The union organizers also shared their hopes for the future, writing in an email to faculty members “For the coming months, the responsibility to effect meaningful and lasting change in our community shifts to the board, as they have requested; we genuinely hope they succeed, because that success would belong to all of us.” 

“I think for many people, the whole union process has been rather stressful and exhausting. From what I heard in staff conversations, I think many went into it seeing it as a simple issue and became aware of more complexities as time went on. My hope is that as we move forward, people will understand that there are reasonable arguments on both sides and (as the old saying goes) find ways to disagree without being disagreeable,” wrote History Teacher and Director of Service Learning Elijah Sivin in an email to the Polygon. 

“In the end, we decided to give the Board of Trustees a chance to meet some of the changes that we [the Poly community] feel the school really desperately needs,” said Blandford.