University of Minnesota Tenure, Tenure Track and Contingent Instructors are #OneFaculty in Union Election

University of Minnesota – Twin Cities faculty praised a decision by the State Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) on September 20th that affirms the unified bargaining unit requested by tenure-track and contingent faculty for their union election, setting the stage for a vote later this fall. 

“I am pleased with the state’s decision to allow contingent faculty like me the opportunity to gain a stronger voice at the University by forming a union with our tenure-track colleagues,” said Jason Stahl, a Lecturer in the Department of Organizational Leadership and Policy Development. “We are building this union together to strengthen the voice of faculty on our campus for ourselves and our students, and we are confident that we will win our vote.”

Tenure-track faculty and contingent faculty filed for an election in January to form one union on the Twin Cities campus. The U of M’s central administration objected, delaying the union vote for several months by attempting to keep tenure-track and contingent faculty divided. BMS held hearings in late April and early May to determine the proper bargaining unit for contract faculty positions like Lecturers and Teaching Specialists.

“Tenure-line and contingent faculty are forming a union together because we are all dedicated academics,” said Jerry Cohen, a Professor of Horticultural Science. “Contract faculty like Teaching Specialists and Lecturers teach many of the same classes, participate in faculty governance, and engage in service and research. While we have different roles at the University, we are all responsible for teaching our students and making the U a great place to learn.”

The decision concludes that “there is no evidence showing a community of interest with Unit 11 [Professional & Administrative] and strong evidence demonstrating significant community of interest with other undisputed Unit 8 [Twin Cities Instructional] classifications. For this reason, those incumbents in the Classifications in Question, located on the Twin Cities Campus of the University, Unit 8 is the appropriate unit assignment.”

“I want to thank the Bureau of Mediation Services for their diligent work on this matter, and I respect the decision they have reached regarding these instructional positions at the U of M,” said State Senator Patricia Torres Ray. “Faculty have every right to organize to demand better working conditions. I expect the University’s central administration to respect this decision by the Bureau and let faculty make their own decision on a union now. The University can’t afford to waste its limited resources fighting against their own faculty.”

“Students support the effort of contingent faculty to form a union with tenured faculty on campus because contingent instructors are who we see most often as undergrads and their lack of stability affects our education,” said Mica Standing Soldier, an undergraduate Senior in English and Creative Writing. “When instructors don’t know if they will be teaching the following semester, it affects the continuity of a degree program, and when they have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet for themselves and their families, we see that in the classroom.”

“Contingent faculty are forming unions across the country because we need greater job stability not only for ourselves, but also for our students and for the future of higher education,” said Mary Pogatshnik, a Senior Teaching Specialist in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese. “We must do better than to ask our students to compromise their education when they are taught by instructors working on unstable contracts.”

“As the University’s administration has increased the number and ratio of non-tenure-line positions, the fates of all faculty are increasingly intertwined,” said Irene Duranczyk, an Associate Professor in the College of Education and Human Development. “We believe that the precarious working conditions under which contingent faculty labor are not only bad for them but also bad for students and bad for us, the remaining tenure-line faculty.”

Faculty at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities campus filed for a union election to join SEIU Local 284 on Wednesday, January 20th. The union would include approximately 2,500 tenure-line and contingent faculty at the U of M – Twin Cities campus, and would be one of the largest single-campus faculty unions in the country.