MCAD votes for faculty union, University left behind

Last week MCAD faculty voted to unionize, Augsburg College could vote in November. Meanwhile, at the University of Minnesota an appeal has brought the effort to a halt.

Olivia Johnson

Though three Twin Cities academic institutions simultaneously started fights for faculty unionization in the spring, this week the University of Minnesota fell behind the pack.

After a push started last spring, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design voted to unionize faculty on Tuesday, according to a press release. Earlier in the week, Augsburg College faculty filed for a union election and requested a mail ballot in November. Both schools are nearing the terminus of their unionization efforts.

About 80 percent of MCAD faculty voted to create a union and join the Service Employees International Union. Before the school negotiates union contracts, the National Labor Relations Board has to verify the vote, a process that could take several weeks, said Daniel Dean, adjunct faculty in the media arts department at MCAD.

The school started discussing the idea of a faculty union in the spring and began organizing soon after, Dean said.

“This is, I think, timely, and inspired in part by successes around the country at other art schools, in particular,” he said.

At MCAD, Dean said 43 adjunct faculty members voted in favor of unionization and 20 were in opposition. For full-time faculty, 16 voted in favor and 13 were in opposition to the move.

The adjunct and full-time faculty split into two bargaining units with two different contracts, Dean said.

Faculty job security, governance and the ability to further plan out what classes they will teach are some of the stipulations outlined in the contracts.

“That provides more preparation time, which results in better quality classes, which results in better education for students,” Dean said.

Dean said he thinks the negotiation phase will take less than a year to complete before contracts are set and enforced.

Jessica Ennis, an adjunct physics instructor at Augsburg College, said that Hamline University and the University of Minnesota inspired them to push for unionization.

Like MCAD, the conversation began in the spring, Ennis said.

“Most of the increases we’ve gotten here in terms of pay and recognition over the past couple years have been due to unionization efforts in the area,” she said, adding several of their pay raises wouldn’t have happened without union pressure at other schools.

Ennis said that adjunct faculty members at Augsburg are some of the lowest paid in the area, and the potential union would fight to raise their compensation.

She said she doesn’t want to see colleges and universities across the country get away with using adjunct faculty to teach a majority of their undergraduate courses.

“This is the first step … pay adjuncts for what they are worth,” she said.