Bernie Sanders Writes Letter in Support of Union Effort


Bernie Sanders wrote to Fordham’s faculty, detailing the benefits of unions (Courtesy of AP Images).

By Theresa Schliep

Bernie Sanders wrote to Fordham’s faculty, detailing the benefits of unions (Courtesy of AP Images).

The unionization cause at Fordham has gone national. Senator and former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders wrote to Fordham faculty last week, promising not to tell them how to vote in the union election but detailing the benefits of unions – especially those in education.

“I have had the opportunity to of working with thousands of workers across the country who are members of unions – including many who work in the field of education,” wrote Sanders.

Sanders wrote that he has experience working with members of unions at University of Vermont, Columbia University and public school teachers.

“What forming a union means is that you and your co-workers will have the opportunity to sit down as legal equals with management to negotiate a legally binding contract covering all aspects of your wages, benefits and working conditions,” wrote Sanders.

The university announced a union election for most adjunct and full-time, non-tenure track faculty in late September. The university previously expressed concerns regarding the unionization of faculty, citing concerns that unionization would infringe on the university’s first amendment right and a Supreme Court ruling that decided the NLRB does not have jurisdiction over faith-based operations.

Alessandro King, member of Fordham Faculty United (FFU) said the group is “excited to receive national attention for our union movement with Senator Sanders’ letter of support.”

King was unable to give a definitive timeline for the union election, but said that it will happen this semester. Original statements from both the university and the faculty said it should happen at some point in October.

Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, said recently in an interview with The Fordham Ram and The Fordham Observer that he never opposed the unionization of adjunct faculty, but rather considered it an issue with timing.

“I was never against the unions,” said McShane in the interview. “I had real concerns about if this is the right time.”

He also cited concerns over who would be unionized.

In his letter, Sanders says unionization means employees will have more say in their employment.

“Having a union ends the arrangement where the employer makes all the decisions unilaterally, and institutes a legal process where your union organization collectively bargains with the employer regarding the issues you have identified as needing improvement,” he wrote.

Another notable politician came out in support of the unionization effort at Fordham. Mayor Bill de Blasio urged the university in April to reevaluate their efforts to prevent unionization and and instead allow it.

Sanders is not entirely unfamiliar with Fordham. Sanders visited Arthur Avenue during the 2016 presidential campaign and ate at Michelangelo’s. He also held a rally in the South Bronx.