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Victory on the Horizon

By Gwendolyn Bradley

The University of the Virgin Islands AAUP chapter received good news in February when a superior court in the Virgin Islands affirmed that faculty at UVI are eligible for collective bargaining. The ruling came after a five-year struggle with a hostile administration. In fall 2003, the UVI faculty reestablished its chapter of the AAUP, and within a few months, a majority of the faculty had joined the chapter. Faced with an increasingly autocratic administration and board of trustees, the chapter took the lead on several issues and ultimately decided to seek certification as the faculty collective bargaining representative.

Four-fifths of the faculty members signed cards authorizing the chapter to represent them in collective bargaining, and an election petition was filed with the Virgin Islands Public Employment Relations Board in January 2004. Although representatives of the administration and the chapter agreed on the details of an election in a prehearing conference, the administration later reneged, arguing that UVI faculty were managerial employees as defined by the Yeshiva decision. The administration also claimed that even though the Virgin Islands has its own labor statute, the rationale of Yeshiva should be adopted by the local labor board, thus barring the UVI-AAUP from becoming the faculty’s certified representative. The labor board rejected the university’s argument and ordered an election, which was held in 2006. But the administration appealed this ruling and the ballots were impounded by court order.

Now, with the superior court’s dismissal of the administration’s appeal, the ballots have been counted: seventy-two “yes” votes and two “no.”

“Although the UVI administration and its lawyers have demonstrated a remarkable willingness to go to extremes in avoiding their legal obligations, it is not too early to congratulate our UVI colleagues,” says Pat Shaw, a member of the AAUP’s organizing staff who worked closely with the UVI faculty. “We are extremely pleased with this positive development for those who have worked so long and so hard to achieve their right to bargaining.”

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