University of Minnesota appeals state’s faculty union decision

The University is appealing the state’s decision to allow tenure and non-tenure track faculty to join the same union.

by Eliana Schreiber

The University of Minnesota will appeal a state decision from last month that grouped tenure and non-tenure track faculty together in a potential faculty union at the school.

On Monday, the school announced it would challenge a Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The contested ruling — part of the University’s long-running legal battle with union organizers — included some faculty positions, such as teaching specialists and lecturers, in a union vote.

In an email to faculty, Patti Dion, director of employee and labor relations in the Office of Human Resources, said non-tenure track faculty should be classified in the Unit 8 bargaining group, which is the school’s professional and administrative unit. She said the University disagrees with the BMS decision to place those faculty members in the school’s instructional unit — Unit 11.

“The Bureau’s recent decision diminishes tenure, overlooks our dedication to research, and undervalues service,” she said in an email to University employees.

An emailed statement from Douglas Peterson in the University’s Office of the General Counsel said the University’s lecturers and teaching specialists have a “distinctly different” focus than tenured faculty.

“It is important for Minnesota’s judiciary to address that difference before a union vote is taken,” he said in the statement.

Minnesota Academics United, the group organizing the faculty union push, called the move by the University an “obstructive court action,” in an emailed statement.

Dion’s email said the University recognizes the value in non-tenured faculty, but the state’s decision undervalues the service of tenure-track faculty.

“I really appreciate, quite deeply, what Patty Dion said in her email that she recognizes the contributions that non-tenured track faculty make,” said University Spanish and Portuguese senior teaching specialist Mary Pogatshnik. “I also appreciate that she said we contribute in different ways than tenure-track faculty do.”

Pogatashnik said non-tenured faculty want to keep their classification with customized contracts.

“Just because we’re in a union does not mean we’re going to have one contract imposed on us,” she said. “That’s not what we’re trying to do.”