Minnesota Academics United will not pursue an appeal of the state Court of Appeals ruling to divide non-tenure-track and term/tenure-track faculty at the University of Minnesota into separate bargaining units, the organization said in a statement issued Thursday.
Instead, the group is pulling the union election for faculty in Unit 8, the so-called instructional unit, and “moving forward as one united faculty by forming a workers’ association.”
On Sept. 5, the court overturned a state Bureau of Mediation Services determination that both groups of faculty share a community of interest as employees. Minnesota Academics United “rejects the division of faculty resulting from the Sept. 5 ruling,” the group said.
“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.”
The 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 university’s central administration objected, delaying the vote for several months.
The Bureau of Mediation Services held in-depth hearings to determine the proper bargaining unit for the non-tenure-track positions – which make up approximately 40 percent of instructional faculty – determining all faculty should be in the same bargaining unit.
“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.
“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 U.S., 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.”
Workers are organizing through unions and other organizations to improve their lives. Union representation provides a voice on the job and the opportunity to improve wages, benefits and working conditions.