Adjunct faculty at St. Paul university join wave of organizing in Twin Cities to improve higher education for students and faculty
St. Paul – Adjunct faculty at St. Catherine University (St. Kate’s) filed cards this morning to trigger a union election to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 284. The election would cover around 100 adjunct faculty. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will schedule the election for this summer unless there are objections from St. Kate’s administration.
The election would come less than a year after Minnesota College of Art and Design (MCAD) and Augsburg College faculty voted to join the union and adjunct faculty at Hamline University won their first union contract after forming their union in 2015.
Peter Morales, adjunct faculty teaching art at St. Kate’s, explained why he decided to support the fight for a stronger voice to improve higher education for students and faculty at St. Kate’s.
“I love teaching and working with students, but I find that to make a decent living I have to juggle so many other work responsibilities that it is difficult to offer my students the additional attention they and their work require from time to time. Colleges and Universities depend more and more on contingent faculty to contain costs. We are coming together at St. Kate’s to address these issues and improve St. Kate’s for faculty and students.”
Morales also teaches at Hamline, where adjunct faculty joined SEIU Local 284 in 2015 and won a strong first contract in 2016.
“At Hamline University we had a successful unionization and my experience has been a positive one. I have received a substantial increase in pay and I know that I won’t have to wait a decade to receive periodic cost of living increases. I also have access to faculty development and I have been able to participate more fully in academic life. Additionally, I have also received more support and consideration from tenure-track faculty. I look forward to similar gains at St. Kate’s when we win our union and bargain our first contract.”
Noting that St. Kate’s is a Catholic school, Gregory King, who serves as the Co-Chair of the Education Equity Team with ISAIAH, expressed hope that the administration at St. Kate’s would remain neutral and not try to stop the vote from happening.
“As a practicing Catholic, I wholeheartedly support the rights of the adjunct faculty at St. Catherine’s (or at any university) to form a union if they so choose, as it is in keeping with the tenets of Catholic Social Teaching regarding the dignity of work and rights of workers. Furthermore, as someone with great respect for St. Kate’s (having married an alumnus at Our Lady of Victory Chapel on campus), it’s my hope that the administration of the University would agree and remain neutral in the upcoming vote,” said King.
Roger Watts, adjunct faculty and SEIU Local 284 bargaining team member at Augsburg College, expressed support for St. Kate’s faculty as they filed cards to trigger their election.
“I couldn’t be happier that we adjuncts at Augsburg have joined with two other institutions – Hamline and MCAD – to help all adjunct faculty in the Twin Cities stabilize their careers. Our efforts will make it easier for adjuncts and their families to plan for their financial future, secure academic freedom, and restore teaching as the central focus of our professional lives,” said Watts. “The opportunity for St Kate’s adjunct faculty to join us in this effort only strengthens our collective health and prosperity.”
In addition to the wins at MCAD, Augsburg and Hamline, tenure-track and contingent faculty at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities campus filed for a union election in 2016 and await their election to be ordered by the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services.
MN Academics United is an affiliate of SEIU Local 284. Faculty at Twin Cities colleges and universities are coming together to form unions for a stronger voice in shaping our institutions’ direction and priorities, our working conditions, and the future of higher education in Minnesota.