University of Minnesota faculty drop effort to form a union
ST. PAUL — A three-year effort to unionize University of Minnesota faculty is over without going to a vote.
Organizers said Thursday, Oct. 5, that they will not appeal last month's decision from the Court of Appeals, which said state law prohibits part-time and contingent faculty at the U from forming the same union as its tenured faculty.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is withdrawing the election petition it filed in January.
Mark Borrello, a tenured associate professor of ecology, evolution and behavior, said the group known as Minnesota Academics United (MNAU) seriously considered an appeal but decided to end its long, costly legal battle.
Instead, faculty organizers will look to form a voluntary, dues-paying workers' association to represent the interests of all U faculty.
Borrello said they're unsure what a workers' association might look like, but he's interested in university faculty taking on a higher profile at the Legislature and presenting a unified voice in talks with university administration.
"I think people are pretty energized," he said.
Borrello said one item on the long-term agenda is lobbying for a change in state law that would enable tenured and contingent U faculty to join the same union.
The SEIU began organizing at colleges and universities across the country because of the growing use of contingent faculty, who are cheaper and can be easily dismissed.
Adjuncts at Hamline and Augsburg universities and the Minnesota College of Art and Design since have joined SEIU Local 284, and efforts are ongoing at St. Catherine University.
Borrello said there was no thought to holding a union election for just tenure and tenure-track faculty, because that would have run "counter to what we were trying to achieve."
"Term/tenure-track faculty in MNAU refuse to pursue unionization without the inclusion of their non-tenure-track colleagues. Instead, MNAU faculty remain committed to pursuing improved working and learning conditions for all students, faculty and campus workers," Eric Van Wyk, associate professor in computer science and engineering, said in a prepared statement.
Kathy Brown, vice president for human resources, said in a letter to employees that the U now can resume working with faculty and staff on employment conditions. A "maintenance of status quo order" related to the union drive no longer applies.
"I look forward to partnering with you to continue to enhance our workplace so we can help the university achieve its important mission," she wrote.