Job Family Study shows why we need a P&A union

Ian Ringgenberg, Academic adviser

I am one of the 5,500 Academic Professionals and Administrators (P&A) employees who work at the University of Minnesota. P&A employees serve many roles on campus, from advising and teaching to research and other duties.
 
Earlier this year, the University completed what they called a “Job Family Study” and contracted with Sibson Consulting, a private company, to restructure our jobs with minimal input from the employees themselves. 
 
In the study, employees were asked to describe their job duties on paper and submit them for review. Based on what they wrote, they could be reclassified to another job, salary range or even employment class. 
 
If an employee wanted to appeal a decision made about their job, they needed the approval of their supervisor and human resources lead, neither of whom necessarily knew more than the employee about why the change was made. 
 
The assumption that the interests of P&A employees and the interests of their supervisors are one and the same is a fallacy that prevents us from advancing our stake in the University.
 
The Job Family Study resulted in employees losing vacation time, having salaries frozen or having raises and promotions deferred or eliminated. Few explanations were given for decisions, making them difficult to dispute. 
 
Any appeal (assuming you could persuade your supervisor and HR lead to support it), would be made to the HR department and would be your word against the decision made by outside consultants and the University.
 
This process that we experienced demonstrates why P&A academic professionals working at the University, in addition to the instructional faculty, are seeking to form a union.
 
With a union, we would have had a seat at the table and an opportunity to advocate for our interests in the decisions affecting our working conditions. 
 
We deserve a campus environment where our work is valued and our voice is heard on how we can best do our jobs. We work hard for our students, on the research that we do and on the initiatives we support. We need a voice in University decisions to advocate for our impact. Organizing a union will give us that voice and help us succeed in our roles at the University in the future.