A push for adjunct faculty unionization is getting some much-needed traction at Hamline University and Macalester College, but it won’t be as easy for the University of Minnesota.
Some of the University’s adjuncts have been approached by the Service Employees International Union’s Adjunct Action campaign. The organization currently represents about 18,000 faculty members nationwide, and they’re looking to unionize more. Macalester faculty and students rallied for the cause last week, and the school will vote on the issue soon, along with Hamline.
This is an important cause. Colleges and universities rely often on adjunct faculty to fill gaps or control costs, but the instructors often take on much of the same responsibility as tenured faculty with only a portion of the pay, benefits and job security.
Adjuncts often hop from place to place, fighting for full-time work in a way that unfortunately mirrors the postgraduate path of their students.
We support adjunct unions in Minnesota, but we’re skeptical of a national group coming in, drumming up support and then prescribing solutions that may not work here. A unionization effort should come from within the faculty and gain support from the rest of the school.
While Adjunct Action has visited Hamline and Macalester, the type of support we saw last week indicates there are real engines of change in the school itself.
The University of Minnesota is, for better or worse, an entirely different case due to its sheer size. To have any hope of organizing faculty sprawled across the University’s colleges and campuses, the unionization effort needs support from all sides.