Frequently Asked Questions
- Is it legal for me to join the union? Yes!
- Is it legal for me to talk about the union at work? Yes!
- Can I get in trouble for joining the union? Nope!
- Are dues a waste of money? Nope!
- Are unions useless in a Right-To-Work state like Kentucky? Nope!
- Do unions always side with the Democratic Party? Nope!
- Will the union force me to go on strike? Nope!
- Are unions unnecessarily hostile to employers? Nope!
1. Is it legal for me to join the union?
Yes! You have Constitutional Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Association protections, which give you the right to join a labor union and organize collectively to seek improvement of the terms and conditions of your employment. Moreover, it is stated explicitly in KRS 336.130, that “Employees may, free from restraint or coercion by the employers or their agents, associate collectively for self-organization and designate collectively representatives of their own choosing to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment to effectively promote their own rights and general welfare.”
2. Is it legal for me to talk about the union at work?
Yes! Political activities such as picketing, rallies, and leafleting on your lunch break or after work are constitutionally protected forms of expression and free association. Generally, if you can talk about sports games or sell girl scout cookies at work, you can invite your coworkers to join the union.
3. Can I get in trouble for joining the union?
Nope! It is illegal for the administration to retaliate against you for exercising your constitutional right to join the union and engage in union activities. United Campus Workers has been organizing at colleges and universities in the southeast for 18 years, and, to date, no union members have been fired for organizing. Membership information is kept private, and dues are collected directly by UCW so our employers never know who signs up. Still, if any UCW member ever does suffer from any kind of retaliation, we will stand together to fight back. An injury to one is an injury to all. Right now, supervisors and administrators are able to harass workers individually. As a union, we can stand up for ourselves and put a stop to unfair treatment.
4. Are dues a waste of money?
Nope! We all pay dues so that we can have the resources for organizers, lawyers, researchers, and everything else we need to win change. Dues are on a sliding scale starting at $15 per month for full-time campus workers or $8 per month for part-time and graduate workers. The dues go to a bank account that we, the workers and members and of UCW Kentucky, control. The university has a lot of money. We need our own resources to be able to win improvements to pay, healthcare, safety, and other issues.
5. Are unions useless in a Right-to-Work state like Kentucky?
Nope! Right-to-Work (RTW) simply means that no worker can be required to join a union to hold their job. No one is requiring you to join a union - we’re inviting you! Together, acting a union, we have already won major changes at institutions of higher education in Kentucky. Imagine what we could accomplish if more workers joined and took action with us.
6. Do unions always side with the Democratic Party?
Nope! Neither UCW nor our national parent union (CWA) is affiliated with either party. Though more union members vote Democratic than do non-union workers, about 30 percent of union members identify as Republicans. Some unions conduct dual endorsements in elections, choosing both a Republican and a Democrat. But most importantly, our local union follows democratic processes that allow us to decide how to engage in national, state, and local politics.
7. Will the union force me to go on strike?
Nope! Strikes are very rare - they are always the last resort to fight for fair working conditions as well as for the students and communities we serve. In fact, Kentucky law currently prohibits state workers from striking. However, the only reason that strikes are legal in other states and industries is because at some point unionized workers won that right by courageously striking illegally. But we get to choose if we strike, because we are the union! UCW-CWA does what our members want to do. In order for us to go on strike, a majority of us (the members of the United Campus Workers Kentucky) would have to vote to approve strike action. We would only vote to approve a strike if we had a clear plan (with a high probability of success) to improve our working conditions and our students’ learning conditions.
8. Are unions unnecessarily hostile to employers?
Nope! The union is independent from university administrations, which allows us to advocate for ourselves honestly and directly, but there is nothing that states that we cannot work cooperatively with administrators to achieve a better work environment for workers and better learning conditions for students.
Frequently Asked Questions for International Students
1. Can international student workers join United Campus Workers of Kentucky?
Absolutely! United Campus Workers of Kentucky (UCWKY) is open to any and all campus workers (faculty, staff, graduate students, undergraduate workers), regardless of their visa status.
2. Is it legal for international students to join a union?
Yes. All student employees, regardless of their immigration status or visa type, are protected in their right to join and organize as a union.
3. Will union membership and union activity affect my current or future visas?
No. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) cannot ask you questions about your union membership or participation in lawful union activity. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recognized the importance of enforcing labor laws and signed an agreement with the Department of Labor (DOL) that states it is essential to ensure proper wages and working conditions for all covered workers regardless of immigration status. It is your right to belong to a union and being a union member cannot affect your current visa status or future visa application.
4. I am not a citizen of the U.S., and I do not have the right to vote. Am I allowed to join a political organization?
As an international student, you cannot vote in local or federal elections. However, all individuals in the U.S., including international students and workers, have the same rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association.
5. Will union membership affect my relationship with my advisor and/or my standing in the department?
As the union, you and your coworkers decide which actions to take as a union and how you want to engage with your advisor and other members of your department. In some cases, international graduate students may decide to take action together to improve the treatment they receive from advisors or department chairs. In other cases, the decision-makers who can actually improve their areas of concerns (for instance, the graduate student health insurance) are upper level administrators -- and your chair or advisor may agree with your position (and may join the union or already be a member)!
6. Will the university administration take action against me for my union work?
It is illegal for an employer to retaliate against workers for exercising their rights to join and organize as a union. It is stated explicitly in Kentucky Revised Statute 336.130, that “Employees may, free from restraint or coercion by the employers or their agents, associate collectively for self-organization and designate collectively representatives of their own choosing to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment to effectively promote their own rights and general welfare.” Moreover, as one big union for staff, faculty, graduate and undergraduate workers, we stand up for each other and would fight back if the administration attempted to retaliate against any one of us.
7. Why should I join the union? How can I, as an international student, benefit from it?
Organizing as United Campus Workers can benefit international students in many ways. To name a few, it can help you eliminate discrimination, navigate bureaucracy, create a sense of community, and improve your healthcare plan and funding. It is a part of our visa restrictions that we cannot work for more than 20 hours a week or work outside school, except in special circumstances. Therefore, it is especially important for international students to see stipends increase every year. Demands for higher pay, better healthcare, and better treatment constitute the core of our “Fair Pay and a Say at UK” campaign.
8. What has the union done for international student workers?
Since international students formed the International Academics Constituency Group within the union in Spring 2020, we fought for the rights of international students both locally and nationally. We pushed back against the Trump administration’s attacks on international students and faculty throughout the state. We connected with other international workers and those interested in international student issues across the region. We won a 10% increase in TA stipends in A & S College.