Higher Education

STAR TRIBUNE: Hamline adjuncts reach tentative agreement on ‘historic’ first contract

Hamline instructors’ tentative pact includes first pay raise in 10 years.

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.”

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Hamline University Adjuncts Reach Tentative Agreement on Historic First Union Contract

The agreement, called a victory for both faculty and students, will help promote stability through substantial wage increases and new professional development fund

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:

  • Raises for all adjunct faculty. A majority will receive a 15% increase in year 1 and base pay will increase by 20% by the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
  • Additional compensation for adjuncts with their terminal degree and length of service will increase base pay in year 1 by 25% and by 30% in fiscal year 2017-2018.
  • A professional development fund will be established.
  • Adjunct faculty will receive much earlier notice of courses they will teach, and will be compensated for work if there is a last minute cancellation. Additionally, they will have the first right of refusal to teach a course they design or be compensated for the curriculum.
  • Establishment of a Union/University Collaboration Committee (otherwise known as a Labor Management Committee)

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.


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The Union Stew 12/17


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:

  • All adjunct faculty will receive a raise. A majority will receive a 15% increase in Spring Term.
    • Additional compensation for terminal degree and length of service can increase total course compensation in Year 1 by 25%.
  • A professional development fund is established.
  • Adjunct Faculty will have much earlier notice of courses they will teach, and will be compensated for work if there is a last minute cancellation. Additionally, they will have the first right to teach a course they design or be compensated for the design.
  • Adjunct faculty, their spouse and child are eligible for a tuition discount.
  • Establishment of a Union/University Collaboration Committee (otherwise known as a Labor Management Committee)

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!

In solidarity!


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The Union Stew 11/5

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…)

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The Union Stew 10/30

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…)

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The Union Stew 10/20

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…)

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The Union Stew 9/18

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…)

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The Union Stew 8/14

Dear Hamline Colleagues –

We’ve continued to bargain over economic issues for the past month. After meeting once more in July and twice in August since my last message, we’ve now met twenty times to bargain. This isn’t unusual for a first contract, but it’s new to all of us who are faculty members on the bargaining team, and it’s been quite the education. Some sessions feel long and unproductive, while others bring promise, but we continue to press forward bit by bit toward a contract we can bring to you—hopefully this fall. (more…)

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Sign Petition to Support Hamline Adjunct Bargaining

After nine months of bargaining toward our first contract, on June 17—almost a year to the day after our union vote—the administration presented their opening economic proposal.  It offers ZERO INCREASE in base compensation. A tiny $200/course bonus would go to adjuncts with terminal degrees in their field; everyone else would see nothing.

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The Union Stew 6/19

Dear Hamline Colleagues –

Another brief but urgent update follows. Please read this all the way to the end!

I need to say two things up front, and I need you to hear them both. First, right now I am angry to the point of outrage. Second, I am not done. I hope by the end of this message you can join me in both of these declarations. (more…)

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