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Miami hires law firm to address union

<p>Miami University hired a law firm to help address faculty unionization.</p>

Miami University hired a law firm to help address faculty unionization.

Miami University has hired the law offices of Porter Wright to assist the university in navigating law surrounding unionization, wrote Jessica Rivinius, senior director of News and Communication, in an email sent to The Miami Student.

“No employer would attempt to navigate these waters without appropriate legal advice,” Rivinius wrote. “The use of attorneys has not been a secret. They have met with chairs and other administrators to make sure the university is ready to meet all legal requirements.”

Faculty Alliance of Miami (FAM) announced on Feb. 2 it would be organizing an effort to create a faculty union at Miami. Mack Hagood, co-chair of FAM’s outreach committee, said he had planned to speak about the union after a faculty meeting in his department.

According to Ohio law, faculty are allowed to speak about and hold meetings on unionization, even while at work.

However, mandatory meetings held by the employee or employer about unionization are not allowed. All meeting attendance must be voluntary. 

“For this reason, mandatory faculty meetings are not appropriate for conversations about unionization,” Rivinius writes.

Hagood specified that his request was not for time while the meeting was in progress.

“We actually had no intention of talking about unionizing during the faculty meeting,” Hagood said. “Because the faculty meeting is a time when we're actually doing the business of the department in the university.”

Instead, Hagood said he asked his department chair for time at the end of the meeting.

“What I had asked for was after the faculty meeting was concluded, if I could speak to the other faculty members about the union at that time,” Hagood said, “just to sort of answer any questions that they might have.”

Hagood was informed that his request could no longer be honored. He then organized a time to meet outside of the faculty meeting.

He also said as far as he knows, FAM has not received any kind of direct response from the university. This was the first time he had heard Miami hired legal counsel.

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He said he’s not against Miami hiring legal counsel entirely, but said he would have hoped Miami would’ve sat down with faculty and heard their concerns first.

“If Miami's hiring a law firm to negotiate with us as a bargaining unit I think that's completely sensible,” Hagood said. “But if they're going to spend millions of dollars on an anti-union campaign to fight us, I feel like that's not a good use of university money.”

In her email, Rivinus wrote the firm was hired to “ensure the university is in full compliance with the law around union organizing.”

“All faculty have the right to discuss this important issue with their colleagues,” Rivinius wrote, “so long as all existing rules regarding work time are adhered to.”