U of M Faculty Announce New Direction for Organizing Campaign
Faculty choose to avoid legal battle that would see U of MN spending even more taxpayer money
Minneapolis– Minnesota Academics United (MNAU) will not pursue an appeal of the Minnesota Court of Appeals September 5, 2017 ruling, which overturned the Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) determination that non-tenure-track (NTT) and term/tenure-track (T/TT) faculty share a community of interest as employees. MNAU rejects the division of faculty resulting from this ruling and is pulling the union election for those faculty in Unit 8, the so-called instructional unit. Instead, MNAU is moving forward as one united faculty by forming a workers’ association.
“Faculty are organizing for better teaching conditions for all faculty and better learning conditions for all students,” said Mary Pogatshnik, Senior Teaching Specialist in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. “The university administration has opposed its own employees by spending hundreds of thousands of public dollars to miscategorize instructional faculty at the state labor bureau and Court of Appeals.”
T/TT and NTT faculty filed for an election in January 2016 to vote as a unified community of interest and form one union on the Twin Cities campus. The U of M’s central administration objected, delaying the vote for several months by attempting to keep faculty divided. BMS held in-depth hearings to determine the proper bargaining unit for NTT positions, which make up approximately 40% of instructional faculty, and determined that NTT positions should be placed in the same bargaining unit as T/TT faculty.
“Contingent and tenure-line faculty are resolved to continue to organize as a unified group according to how education actually takes place in the University, rather than according to the priorities and norms set by economic advantages,” said Yuichiro Onishi, Associate Professor, Department of African American & Studies/Program in Asian American Studies. “This struggle of academic labor to defend and ultimately expand a truly public domain of public education is a key political challenge of our time.”
The workers’ association will bring together non-tenure-track and term/tenure-track faculty, something that term/tenure-track faculty highlighted as an exciting development in the new model.
“T/TT faculty in MNAU refuse to pursue unionization without the inclusion of their NTT colleagues. Instead, MNAU faculty remain committed to pursuing improved working and learning conditions for all students, faculty, and campus workers.” said Eric Van Wyk, Associate Professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department.
“In order to continue working as a united faculty, MNAU chooses to form a workers’ association. A workers’ association is a voluntary, dues-paying organization open to faculty members at the University of Minnesota.” said Anna Kurhajec, a Lecturer in the Department of American Studies. “Partly a response to the overwhelming attacks on organized labor in the US, workers’ associations are revitalizing the labor movement and achieving impressive victories, including at other universities. CTUL, a worker center right here in Minneapolis, for example, has won incredible gains by pushing for and winning a $15 minimum wage in Minneapolis, guaranteed sick leave in Minneapolis and St. Paul that will help over 150,000 families, and millions in back wages that had been stolen from workers through wage theft. We are excited to now be on the leading edge of labor instead of at the mercy of legal vagaries.”
Faculty at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities campus are coming together to form a union for a stronger voice in shaping our University’s direction and priorities, our working conditions, and the future of higher education in Minnesota.