The Union Stew 2/13

Dear Hamline Colleagues –

Spring Semester 2015 is upon us! Welcome back to those of you who are returning to the classroom this spring. A special welcome to those of you teaching your first Hamline class as an adjunct this spring in the post-union era. We’re glad you’re here. And finally, welcome “back” to those of you—like me—who are without any Hamline teaching this semester, but who—like me—continue to follow our union progress with keen interest. This promises to be an exciting semester!

After the update (which includes a bit of review since some of you are receiving this as your first Union Stew)be sure to read the strong words of solidarity offered by a member of the tenured faculty at Hamline.

Bargaining Update – After seven sessions of bargaining here’s where we stand:

We started out on non-economic items. These topics (ranging from transparency and predictability in course assignment to grievance procedure to access to HU email and library) don’t have dollars attached to them, so whether very basic or more involved, they’re good places to work on building a cooperative spirit across the table.

We now have TAs (tentative agreements) on nine articles of the contract. This means both sides have signed off on the language for a specific section of the contract. They’re “tentative” until the entire contract is ready for approval since some might get tweaked as we hammer out others. But nine is good progress. Our final contract will have somewhere between 25-30 articles depending on how broad or specific each one is. (We have another 15 articles “in play” right now; that is, moving back and forth between teams for edits, so there is a lot being discussed.)

We have one MOU (memorandum of understanding) in place. This allows us to start posting union-related notices on two Hamline University bulletin boards designated for our use. One is in GLC, on the staircase landing by the entry to the Gallery. The other is in the basement of Old Main near the offices for Human Resources. These boards not only share union info with YOU, but also let anyone else who walks by them—faculty, staff, students, parents, visitors—know that Hamline has an adjunct union committed to improving the learning condition of Hamline students by taking seriously the working conditions of the adjunct faculty who help make that learning possible. We are currently looking for 1-2 member volunteers to craft and update these bulletin boards. This would be a small time commitment of about a half hour every two weeks to simply update the postings. Please contact Nicki Bohen (see below) as soon as possible if you are interested.

We are just beginning to bargain over economic issues. We’ve completed exploratory dialogues (pre-bargaining conversations) around benefits, professional development and compensation—noting that compensation for adjuncts has remained basically flat for the past decade. The administration knows we’ll be presenting proposals that include retirement contributions, professional developments funds, and compensation that move us clearly and significantly toward alignment with Hamline’s value of social justice. These proposals will go forward within the next month, joining another proposal already presented around course assignment that aims to provide greater job stability and security.

Questions & connections. As we work through the proposals on the table we’ll begin to see how close (or how far apart) we really are. We continue to hope that the administration’s response lives up to the university’s vision, values, and mission, but these next few months are essential for standing together, staying informed, and being ready to show our solidarity. If you have questions, want to get together for conversation, and/or would like to know what you can do, please reach out to any of us in the contact list at the end here. Also keep an eye and ear out for us on campus; we’re making efforts to reach out to adjuncts individually in order to make our union stronger.

A transition to note. All fall Adam Lindberg served us ably and articulately on the bargaining team. Because he isn’t teaching at Hamline this spring, he’s decided to step back from the bargaining team for the time being. (Note: this is his personal choice and not a requirement. I, David, am continuing to serve as steward and bargaining team member even though I don’t teach this semester.) At the same time Andrea Moerer has stepped forward to join the bargaining team, so we continue to have five adjunct faculty leading the bargaining process from our side. And we continue to be assisted and advised by SEIU Local 284 staffers.

Best wishes to all of us for a good spring in the classroom and at the bargaining table!

David Weiss
Religion Department
David Weiss, Steward for Hamline Adjunct Faculty Union, SEIU Local 284

 

Message of solidarity from Kate Bjork, Professor of History & Global Studies at Hamline University:

One Faculty was the hopeful theme sounded by the AAUP (American Association of University Professors) State Conference Winter Forum, which I attended on the Saturday before the start of Spring semester here at Hamline. Reports and reflections by faculty members from half a dozen institutions—part time, full time, tenured and adjunct—revealed the many challenges to achieving equity in compensation, rights to due process and support for academic freedom, representation, and even basic recognition for the contributions of contingent faculty that we face. What I found hopeful about the discussion of these challenges was the recognition of them as issues affecting all those who teach at the post-secondary level and the sense that addressing the needs and supporting the goals of contingent faculty is crucial to the wellbeing of our profession as a whole, especially as the proportion of tenured faculty like me continues to decline.

Although we are differentiated by many titles and disparate contract statuses (one AAUP publication I picked up at the forum pointed out that there are more titles for different ranks among the professoriate than there are in the military), we are in fact very much one faculty, or we should be. It is true—as we so often hear—that the structure of higher education is changing. The fact that almost half our colleagues teaching at Hamline last year were faculty in non-tenure track positions is one important aspect of this change. The corporatization of universities and erosion of the scope for a meaningful role for faculty governance were two other trends that also generated a lot of discussion at the forum.

I have great admiration and appreciation for the efforts of my colleagues who have shown the courage and foresight to come together in the interest of securing better working conditions and pay more commensurate with their contributions in the classroom and to Hamline’s mission more generally. As someone who taught as an adjunct for seven years before being hired into a tenure-track position at Hamline, I also realize the sacrifice involved in undertaking this important work, which represents a significant form of professional service, and yet is necessarily carried out on your “own time” and without remuneration, like so much of what contingent faculty do.

From my perspective as a (full time) member of the faculty, the clarity that unionization has brought to issues such as the hidden costs of providing a Hamline education as well as the questions of equity and justice that it has highlighted are all important ones for a community such as ours to grapple with. This salutary focus on the role of adjuncts at Hamline has also led to some significant personal reflection—at least for me. I remember that when I joined the Hamline faculty thirteen years ago, part time faculty provided mentorship, served as role models, and also became my friends and valued colleagues (and many have been here as long, or longer, than I have, and remain—still friends and colleagues). Adjuncts are part of the fabric of Hamline; appropriate recognition of this fact is long overdue, and the full time faculty have much to learn from your experiences and analysis of our shared realities as well as your unique challenges as we strugglehopefully forward together.

–Kate Bjork, Professor of History & Global Studies

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