UMN union can’t include both faculty and lecturers, court says

The decision is the latest in a months-long dispute over who can be part of a faculty union at the University.

Left to right, University faculty Samanth Gopinanth, Mary Pogatshnik, Rob Stewart, Aaron Sojourner and Joel Waldfogel speak at a community forum on faculty unionization cohosted by the Faculty Consultative Committee and the Minnesota Daily in the Coffman Theater on April 25, 2016. 

Joe Sulik

Left to right, University faculty Samanth Gopinanth, Mary Pogatshnik, Rob Stewart, Aaron Sojourner and Joel Waldfogel speak at a community forum on faculty unionization cohosted by the Faculty Consultative Committee and the Minnesota Daily in the Coffman Theater on April 25, 2016. 

Rilyn Eischens

The Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services lacked the authority to assign University of Minnesota teaching specialists, lecturers and faculty to the same bargaining unit, according to a Minnesota Court of Appeals opinion released Tuesday morning. 

The decision, part of a long-running dispute over who can be part of a faculty union, is a victory for the University administration, as some top officials were “disappointed” with the 2016 BMS decision to place almost all teaching staff in the same bargaining unit.

This fall the University challenged the BMS ruling, which came in response to a petition from the union representing University teaching staff. Arguing that lecturers and faculty belong to distinct bargaining categories under state law, the University objected that BMS did not have the authority to assign them to another unit, the opinion says.

“This approach to university education is anachronistic and unacceptable,” the Steering Committee of the Minnesota Academics United campaign, the group organizing the University union effort, said in a statement. “In spite of this unfavorable outcome in the Court of Appeals, we will continue to advocate for our students and colleagues through a variety of channels including a possible appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.”  

The University hadn’t released a statement as of Tuesday morning.

Service Employees International Union Local 284, the union representing University educators, launched the unionization effort several years ago. In January 2016, SEIU submitted a petition to BMS asking for an official union election.

University faculty and adjunct faculty had hoped to organize a union vote by the end of 2016, but the Court of Appeals ordered the election be postponed until they reached an official decision, according to the University faculty unionization website.