MN Academics United

 

Why are faculty forming a Union?

Faculty are forming unions and joining SEIU Local 284 to have a stronger, more unified voice for our profession. We believe strongly that creating more equitable and predictable employment conditions for non-tenure track faculty will enhance the quality of our students’ educational experiences. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.

 

How does a union work?

Having a union empowers people to make positive changes where they work. Having a union does not guarantee any particular improvement or benefit, but a union is the tool working people, like college and university faculty, use to make improvements where they work. Through the power of collective bargaining, instructors across the country have won a voice at the table and have won the right to negotiate with their college and university administrations.

 

What have others achieved by forming a union?

Adjunct faculty at Hamline University are members of SEIU Local 284 and ratified their first contract in early 2016, which granted raises to their base pay for the first time in 10 years. Across the country, faculty have negotiated contracts that have won pay increases, the establishment or expansion of professional development funds, “just cause” clauses protecting members from arbitrary discipline or discharge, and a defined rate of compensation in the event of course cancellation, among other improvements. Because this is our union, what we achieve in bargaining will reflect our priorities and issues specific to our school. Most importantly, forming a union will allow us to have a voice in determining our working conditions.

 

Who will be in charge of our union?

Our union will be a democratic body and we will make our own decisions.We will choose our own team to negotiate our contract with the University and we will elect our own representatives to union leadership. Contracts must be approved by a majority vote, and all members will have the right to  shape our union through bargaining surveys and proposing contract ideas, serving on committees, and electing officers.

 

Who is the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)?

SEIU represents 38,000 tenure-line and non-tenured contingent faculty across the country, from Georgetown and the University of Chicago to the California State University System. SEIU is one of the largest unions in the country, uniting 2 million members in the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. Representing over 30,000 peoople in Minnesota, including adjunct faculty at Hamline University, Augsburg College, and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), we will join a powerful collective voice in our state to advocate for greater support for higher education at our state legislature.

 

What’s the process of forming a union? How long does it take?

A union election usually happens four to six weeks after authorization cards are filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for an election, but the process may take longer. Once the ballots are counted, if there are more “yes” votes than “no” votes, we will then have a seat at the table to improve our pay, benefits and working conditions by negotiating a union contract.

 

How will the Administration respond? 

Most employers, even some with a stated social justice mission, would very much like to continue making all of the decisions without giving those who work for them a real voice. It’s typical for a university administration to launch a campaign that tries to convince us to change our minds about forming a union. Employers’ main argument against a union usually comes down to this: “You will be better off if you let us stay in charge of making all of the decisions.” However, most folks realize that standing together to build a union is the best choice for all of us. Whatever the administration’s response, our union activity is protected by the law and the strength of our numbers. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) Section 8(a) prohibits an employer from threatening us for voting “yes,” interrogating us about union activity, promising any benefit for voting “no” or surveilling any union activity (meetings, events, etc.).

 

How much will dues be?

As members of SEIU Local 284, we will pay 2.1% of our gross salaries, with a monthly maximum of $75. That rate was set by the members of SEIU Local 284, and any changes are always approved by our union’s members. However, no one pays dues until we have: 1) voted to form our union; 2) bargained our first contract; and 3) voted as a group to approve our first contract. In other words, we will not pay any money into the union before we know exactly what gains we’ve achieved through bargaining. We will decide whether our first contract is worth our dues money. Union dues pay for the cost of contract negotiations, representation and enforcement of our contracts, helping other workers join our union, and uniting our strength with other union members in Minnesota and across the country. Our union has a separate, voluntary political fund that supports political activity.

 

What can I do to help make this happen?

The first step to build the union is to sign a union authorization card. As soon as possible, we will file cards with the NLRB. Then, we’ll have our election to form our union. Once we win that election, we will have a union and we’ll begin bargaining for the improvements we want to see. For more information or if you have further questions, contact us at metro@mnacademics.org.