Instructional faculty seek stronger voice in university governance to improve teaching and research conditions, advocate on behalf of students
SAINT PAUL – Today, tenure-line and contingent faculty will deliver signed union cards to the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services to trigger an election to form a faculty union at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities campus. Tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-track contingent faculty from every college of the University’s flagship campus have signed cards in support of forming a union so they can gain a stronger voice in University governance and a stronger voice at the State Capitol to support the institution.
Teri Caraway, an Associate Professor of Political Science, highlights why tenure-line faculty want to form a union: “We want to work with the administration as equal partners to help them resist the pressures that divert resources from our classrooms and labs. We are not forming a union in search of a bigger paycheck, but because our working conditions have deteriorated as resources for teaching and research have dwindled and the proportion of tenured positions has declined. We want to keep the University’s energy and resources focused on our core mission.”
Meredith Gill, a Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature, explains why contingent faculty are forming a union with tenure-line faculty: “Contingent faculty carry an increasing teaching load and perform many ‘faculty-like’ advisory and service duties for which we are rarely compensated or credited. We are forming one union, together with tenure-line faculty, because we all work together as instructional faculty and have a common interest in improving the conditions of teaching and learning at the University.”
Jimmy Patiño, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Chicano & Latino Studies, talked about how a faculty union can improve the university for students and faculty of color: “The diversity of the university does not reflect the diversity of the Twin Cities in 2016, much less that of the region and country. We need to create a campus culture that can attract and retain faculty of color in every rank, provide support for the additional mentorship responsibilities we bear on an informal basis, and improve the learning environment for new immigrants and other students of color.”
Mindy Kurzer, a Professor of Food Science & Nutrition and Director of the Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute spoke to the interests of research faculty on campus: “The challenges we face in conducting our research demonstrate why faculty at the University of Minnesota are coming together to form a union with SEIU. We need a real voice in shared governance at the University to address detrimental policies and an overall lack of transparency, as well as a stronger collective voice as academic researchers to advocate for adequate public investment.”
Once faculty file for an election, the State Bureau of Mediation Services will work with faculty and University administrators to negotiate the details of the election, including exactly who all will be eligible to vote, which may take a few months. With approximately 2,500 instructional faculty at the Twin Cities campus, this will be one of the largest single-campus faculty unions in the country.
Rick McCormick, a Professor of German in the Department of German, Scandinavian & Dutch, has been an active part of the organizing effort: “We are excited and proud to announce today that we are filing for such a groundbreaking union election with strong support from every level of faculty across every part of our university. We look forward to working out the details with the university administration soon so we can move forward with our election and form our union.”
Jason Vaysberg, a student in Communications Studies at the University of Minnesota, expressed the support of students for a faculty union: “Faculty working conditions are our learning conditions, and we see the effects of detrimental decisions in our classrooms every day. Class sizes continue to grow while course offerings decrease, and tuition dollars are increasingly funding layers of administration and bureaucracy instead of departments, classrooms, and research. We are encouraged by faculty members standing up for teaching, learning, and research, and we support their efforts to form a faculty union.”
U of M faculty began organizing to form a union last year. Adjunct faculty at Hamline University voted overwhelmingly to join SEIU Local 284 in June of 2014, and reached a tentative agreement for their first union contract last month.
MN Academics United is an affiliate of SEIU Local 284. 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.
UPDATE ON CBA AND RATIFICATION
I’m sending out a short update to keep you informed of our progress.
We’ve just received the first draft of the final CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) from Hamline’s attorney. This is the first compilation of all the articles that we reached “tentative agreement” on separately. So now we need to take a close look to make sure everything lines up and fits together as we expected it to.
Carol and I have both proofread the CBA. We’ve caught several fairly minor things to correct: small typos; several places where there are inconsistent cross-references from one article to another; a couple paragraphs that were accidentally left out—the type of thing you don’t see until everything gets bundled together. Nothing that should prove controversial, but several things that need to be corrected/added/clarified before the CBA can be distributed to all of you. We’re presently working with the University attorney on addressing these things, and we hope that by the end of the week we have everything ironed out.
Once the CBA (which looks like it will be about 25 pages in length) is in final form we’ll send it out to everyone in the unit to review. That should happen the last week of January. As soon as we can send it out, we’ll also set a date for the ratification vote. These details are not set yet, but you will (by SEIU policy you “must”) have the contract in your hands for two weeks before the vote is held. Full details on the ratification vote will come along with the contract.
One final note, the new compensation scale will become effective at the beginning of Spring Semester even though the ratification vote will come shortly after classes begin.
Looking forward to sharing the CBA with all of you very soon!
Adjunct instructors at St. Paul’s Hamline University, the first in Minnesota to form a union, have reached a tentative agreement on their first contract.
The agreement calls for an immediate 15 percent raise — the instructors’ first raise in their base pay in 10 years, union officials said.
“We think that this contract is a historic first step,” said Della Zurick, a political science instructor at Hamline and one of the union negotiators. “We feel so good about this for so many reasons.”
In 2014, adjuncts at Hamline became the first in Minnesota to vote to unionize as part of a national campaign, called Adjunct Action, to improve wages and working conditions for part-time, temporary faculty members on college campuses.
The agreement, reached late Wednesday, will increase the pay of about 200 Hamline instructors by 20 to 30 percent by the end of the three-year contract, according to the union, which is affiliated with SEIU (Service Employees International Union) Local 284.
Zurick, who has taught political science at Hamline since 2007, said the university had paid the same base rate, $4,000 a class, for 10 years. The two sides had been negotiating since September 2014 to reach a contract.
“Everybody’s going to see an increase,” Zurick said.
If ratified by union members in January, the contract also will give adjuncts the “first right of refusal” to teach certain courses, more advance notice on hiring, and a fund for professional development. “That means that, for the first time, part-time teachers at Hamline have access to funds that they can use to become better teachers,” said Zurick.
John Matachek, Hamline’s provost, said, “I think we landed in a fair place.” He noted that about 15 to 20 percent of Hamline’s courses are taught by adjuncts, and that the college paid a “fairly competitive” rate. At the same time, he said, “we weren’t particularly proud of the fact that [some adjuncts] hadn’t received an increase in 10 years. It should have been higher on the radar screen than it was.”
Typically, adjuncts are hired by the class and paid far less than tenured professors, with few if any benefits. The use of adjuncts has greatly expanded in recent years as colleges and universities have sought to rein in expenses and maintain flexibility in filling teaching slots.
But Zurick rejected the notion that the contract would add to college costs. “We believe that education can be affordable and that people can be paid just wages,” she said. “We don’t think that those are mutually exclusive.”
Zurick said the agreement is likely to resonate beyond Hamline as adjunct professors around the country struggle with similar issues. “We sort of stood up, and in the interests of justice for everybody … started a conversation with Hamline,” she said. “We are part-time workers, but Hamline is acknowledging our value.”
St. Paul, Minn – Late Wednesday night, adjunct faculty at Hamline University reached a tentative agreement for their historic first contract with the University. After 10 years without a raise, adjuncts voted overwhelmingly to form their Union with SEIU Local 284 in June of 2014, and have been negotiating their first contract with the University for over a year. The adjunct faculty on the bargaining team praised the contract as a strong step forward to improving Hamline for adjuncts, students and the whole Hamline community.
Mark Felton, a Hamline adjunct in the business school and member of the bargaining team, highlighted how the contract is a “win-win” for everyone at Hamline.
“Teaching is my passion, which is why I joined the fight to win this first contract that makes Hamline stronger for both adjunct faculty and our students,” said Felton, who has taught at various Higher Education institutions in Minnesota for over 10 years. “Increasing wages after all these years, establishing a professional development fund and crafting a system where adjuncts have advance notice of when we will teach courses will all help to create an environment where we have the capacity to do what we love to do, which is spend time with and teach our students. We always believed we could reach an agreement that moves everyone forward, and we are proud that we came together and made this contract a reality.”
Della Zurick, a Hamline adjunct who teaches political theory and is a member of the bargaining team, shared that her love of her students got her involved in the campaign and why their support helped to make the contract a reality.
“I teach my students about standing up for their convictions, and feel strongly that this contract does just that for Hamline adjuncts who have fought so hard for what is best for both faculty and students,” said Zurick. “I feel called to teach, and find great joy in engaging with my Hamline students. It has been amazing to see and hear the support they have given us throughout my time on the campaign. I believe this contract will help to strengthen that experience for all involved at Hamline. When adjuncts aren’t having to run from one job to the next, scrambling to fit together various pieces, it gives us more time to actually teach our students.”
Hamline students have been strong supporters of the adjuncts during the campaign for a first contract. Kyle McGuinn, a first year MFA student at Hamline, shared why he worked to support adjuncts and why he was excited for this first contract.
“This agreement is a great step forward for both Hamline students and faculty. Students supported the adjuncts bargaining for a fair first contract because we know that if our teachers are paid fairly and given the support they need, they will have more time to invest in our education,” said McGuinn. “I’m proud that adjuncts stood up for a better future for higher education, and proud that the student body showed our support for the teachers that make our education possible. This is a big win for all of Hamline.”
Highlights of the tentative agreement include:
Adjunct faculty in the bargaining unit will vote in early 2016 on ratification of the agreement, which would then go into effect for the Spring semester.
TENTATIVE AGREEMENT REACHED
Dear Hamline Colleagues –
Shortly before 1 a.m. this morning, after a grueling 16-hour session of mediated bargaining, we reached a tentative agreement on a first contract with Hamline.
No doubt there will be news stories spinning this every which way over the days and weeks ahead. But hopefully you heard it first from me.
This is historic. Whatever imperfections the contract has (and it has a few), it unmistakably moves adjunct faculty forward at Hamline—and does so in a way that rests not on the goodwill of the university but on an ongoing shared partnership at the table. It is clear movement in the direction of justice. Moreover, with this agreement the standing of our adjunct peers at other Twin Cities areas colleges and universities is strengthened. And from our corner of Minnesota we have contributed to the rising power of adjunct faculty across the country, working to reclaim higher education as an arena in which teaching is truly valued so that learning is truly supported.
It has not been an easy journey to this day, and the last 16-hour leg of the leg was among the most grueling. BUT we have a tentative agreement, and one that we’ll be eager to share with you once all the pieces of the contract are assembled. This will be sometime in January after the holidays. Once we’ve been able to share the proposed contract, we’ll set a meeting for a ratification vote.
Highlights of the tentative agreement include:
A complete document will be forthcoming and mailed as soon as it is available (hopefully early January).
All five faculty members of our bargaining team were present for at least part of today’s marathon session. Della Zurick, Mark Felton, Carol Nieters, and I were present for the final agreement. I expect we’ll all be a bit weary on Thursday, but it will be a good Thursday for all of us—and for our students and our fulltime colleagues, and, I suspect, even for our administration partners.
Again, details will follow, but right now there’s a bed hollerin’ my name!
At a rally Thursday, educators, students and some lawmakers called for the $1.87 billion surplus to be spent on education
Hannah Weikel, Minnesota Daily
With a $1.87 billion surplus expected, students, educators and some state lawmakers are calling for the state’s windfall to be invested in education.
Of the surplus, Gov. Mark Dayton and state Legislature will be able to divvy up $1.2 billion. The remaining funding will go back into the state’s reserve and environmental funds.
At a Thursday rally — the same day Dayton announced the $1.87 billion boon — speakers called for some or all of it to go toward education in the state.
“A surplus is an opportunity,” said Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul at Thursday’s event at University Baptist Church in Dinkytown. “It gives us a chance to invest back into ourselves, invest in education and into the education of our children.”
He said this issue will move fast and concerned Minnesotans should contact legislators about funneling the surplus toward education.
Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis said while there are many potential ways to spend the additional funds, like tax refunds, one her biggest priorities was student debt and the reinstatement of a tuition freeze at the University of Minnesota.
Speakers at the event, hosted by University of Minnesota Academics United, called for the surplus to be invested in education and to help close the achievement gap among Minnesota students.
At the rally, University Physics graduate student and teacher’s assistant Jarrett Brown said he’s noticed a need for decreased class sizes and more instructors at the University — changes that could be possible with extra state funding.
Associate history professor Eva von Dassow said students are pressured to graduate in four or five years to avoid amassing more debt, which causes students to struggle with heavy course loads, multiple jobs, and stress that that could their ability to learn.
“It’s way too early to make a prediction of what Gov. Dayton will do with the budget surplus,” said Minnesota Office of Higher Education Commissioner Larry Pogemiller. “The history of Dayton and higher education has been good but not perfect.”
Dear Hamline Colleagues –
FOOD FIGHT! (Sort of.)
Tomorrow – Friday, November 6 – we launch our food drive in Anderson Center. Tabling (by MPIRG) begins at 2 p.m., with an official kick-off at 3 p.m. in the central forum on the first floor of Anderson.
This is a big deal, and I really hope that if you’re available at 3 p.m. you come down. Just being there (maybe wearing a button!) and being seen will carry weight on Friday. If any of you are interested in speaking let me know right away. (Please note: it would need to be short – 3 minutes max, and slots are limited so I’d need to hear from you quickly, including a brief sense of what you’d like to say. Maybe about your passion for teaching or the challenges of being an adjunct.) (more…)
Dear Hamline Colleagues –
Over the past two weeks I’ve met with about a dozen of you one-on-one. I think every single person I’ve connected with has found it useful. I’ll continue to reach to others as your availability matches mine. A union is as strong as the common convictions and—more importantly—the good relationships that hold us together. If you want to be sure to connect with me, then send a message my way, and I’ll get right back to you. (more…)
Dear Hamline Colleagues –
Stew’s simmering now! “I support Hamline adjuncts” buttons are appearing around campus, and today is the day we release the video. The link is below, but first, since several of you have asked, here’s a word of clarity about our right to be visible in this way. (more…)
Dear Hamline Colleagues –
If this message had a “status level” to it, it would be marked “URGENT.” We have a real opportunity to make change at Hamline this fall, and to send a message of hope rippling outward to our adjunct colleagues across the Twin Cities and across the nation. But not without a show of real solidarity on our part. We will need as many of our members as possible to become visible and vocal in the next weeks and months. (more…)