I write this letter as a member of the UVI Board of Trustees to express my personal opinion in response a letter written by Ms. Kathy Sheats, a member of the faculty of the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), which letter was titled, If I Were a UVI Trustee. I do not claim to represent the Board of Trustees in writing this letter.
Ms. Sheats implicitly stated that the Board of Trustees made an unwise and uninformed decision in declining to direct the President of UVI to withdraw the legal action that was filed on the representation election held by the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) on November 8, 2006 for members of the UVI faculty and that the purpose of that legal action is to deny the members of the faculty their right to form a union. The premise of her allegation is that the ballots that were cast on November 8th were sealed by the Superior Court in response to a motion filed by UVI.
In fact, the ballots are sealed by order of the Court based on a stipulation made by the PERB and UVI. Further, there is an important issue that has been overlooked by the authors of the protest letters, which have been published thus far. Because of supervisory duties that they had as employees of UVI, all of the faculty members who cast their vote on November 8th, whether for or against the establishment of a union, may not be faculty, as opposed to management, as defined by applicable law; on that basis, a number of them may not have been legally eligible to participate in that election.
A determination of this important issue was requested from the PERB by UVI prior to the election being scheduled; however, the PERB scheduled the representation election, initially for November 2, 2006, without making such a determination. Therefore, UVI filed an action in the Superior Court on October 23, 2006 contesting the manner in which the PERB proposed to hold the union certification election. The petition by UVI asked the Superior Court to determine whether the PERBs order should be affirmed or denied. Concurrently with UVIs filing of this Petition for Writ of Review in the Superior Court, UVI also filed with the PERB a motion to stay the PERBs proceedings, including the proposed union election. The PERB granted UVIs motion on October 31, 2006 effectively staying the election that was scheduled for November 2nd pending a disposition of the case that was filed by UVI in the Superior Court.
Without explanation, on November 2, 2006, just two days later, the PERB vacated its October 31st decision to stay further proceedings and directed that the election be held on November 8, 2006. UVI had a motion pending before the Superior Court at that time for stay of further PERB proceedings; UVI therefore requested a hearing on that pending motion. Consequently a hearing was scheduled by the Court for November 6, 2006 on UVIs Motion to stay the PERB election scheduled for November 8th.
Based on a proposal made by the PERB, the PERB and UVI negotiated a stipulation shortly before the hearing began. During the hearing before Judge Ive A. Swan on November 6th, the PERBs counsel and UVIs counsel recited the terms of that stipulation. The stipulation allowed the faculty union certification election to proceed on November 8th, but stayed all further PERB proceedings, including the counting and disclosure of the voting results, until a final determination by the Superior Court on UVIs Petition for Writ of Review. This stipulation was read in open court in the presence of the attorney representing the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), Attorney Archie Jennings, who did not object to the stipulation. Consistent with the stipulation of the PERB and UVI, the Court entered an order requiring the ballots to be sealed after they are cast until a decision is reached on the merits of the matter before the Court.
In taking this matter to the Court for redress, legal expenses have been incurred by UVI that otherwise would not have been incurred. However, this was an unavoidable expense resulting from the PERBs decision ordering that the election take place without issuing a answer to the important question of who is considered a faculty member for the purpose of the representation election pursuant to law.
I respectfully disagree with Ms. Sheats suggestion that the UVI Board of Trustees have made an unwise or uninformed decision in supporting the UVI Administration to seek a decision by the Court on this important issue.
Alex A. Moorhead
Member, UVI Board of Trustees
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