Thursday, March 31, 2016

Press release: University of Minnesota Files Obstructive Court Action in Effort to Delay Faculty Union Vote


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, March 31, 2016
CONTACT: David Zaffrann, 651-238-8944, david@mnacademics.org

University of Minnesota Files Obstructive Court Action in Effort to Delay Faculty Union Vote

University Spending Taxpayer Time & Money to Appeal Clear Ruling by State Agency, Delaying Union Election Process

MINNEAPOLIS – Today faculty expressed their disappointment at the decision by the University of Minnesota’s Office of Human Resources to appeal a decision by the State Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) in the State Court of Appeals and seek a stay of pre-election hearings for a faculty union.

“We are dismayed by the University’s decision to spend months of administrative time and untold sums of taxpayer and tuition dollars on costly outside counsel to fight us, their own faculty, rather than just letting us choose for ourselves whether or not we want a union,” said Meredith Gill, a Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies and Comparative Literature.

If a stay is granted by the State Court of Appeals while it considers the appeal, it could delay the union election for faculty for up to a year.

“We are forming a union so we can gain a stronger voice in University governance, and this is a perfect example of why,” said Irene Duranczyk, an Associate Professor in the College of Education and Human Development. “Rather than respond to the voice and needs of both tenure-track and contract faculty, after we have clearly indicated our interest in forming a union together, the University’s central administration is doing everything in their power to keep us divided.”

The disagreement between the faculty organizing committee and the administration centers on which faculty should be eligible to vote in the election and be part of the union. The organizing committee filed for an election to include both tenure-track faculty and contract faculty, together. BMS ruled earlier this month that contingent instructors like Teaching Specialists and Lecturers have never been placed in a bargaining unit for purposes of a union election, and that the University’s administrative classifications do not govern in this context. The next step in the process, as defined in state law, will be for BMS to assign these positions to the proper bargaining unit based on their "Community of Interest" in a hearing that will start in late April unless the court grants the administration’s request to put a stay on BMS proceedings.

“Tenure-line and contingent faculty are forming a union together because we are all instructional faculty,” said Jerry Cohen, a Professor of Horticultural Science. “Contract faculty positions like Teaching Specialists and Lecturers teach many of the same classes, participate in faculty governance, and engage in service and research. While we have different roles at the University, we are all responsible for teaching our students and making the U a great place to learn.”

“I am very concerned about the University’s increased reliance on low-paid instructors with no job security,” said Senator Patricia Torres-Ray. “Faculty have every right to organize to demand better working conditions. I expect Administration to respect the process and let faculty make this decision. The University can’t afford to waste its limited resources fighting against their own faculty.”

“Students support the effort of tenure-track and contract faculty to form a union together on campus because their working conditions are our learning conditions,” said Alex Peeper, an undergraduate in History and Political Science at the U of M. “It’s disappointing to me to see the U’s central administration spending their time and our tuition dollars fighting our faculty instead of fighting for us.”

“Ultimately, none of these delays change our vision for the union we are building to strengthen the voice of faculty on our campus for ourselves and our students,” said Mary Pogatshnik, a Senior Teaching Specialist in Spanish & Portuguese. “The University can delay the timeline, and we will continue building our union. We are confident that we will win our vote in the end.”

Faculty at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities campus filed for a union election to join SEIU Local 284 on Wednesday, January 20th. The union would include approximately 2,500 tenure-line and contingent faculty at the U of M – Twin Cities campus, and would be one of the largest single-campus faculty unions in the country.

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