University files appeal to state in union process

The appeal refutes the state’s claim that non-tenured faculty may be included in a union vote

Brian Edwards

The vote on faculty unionization at the University of Minnesota could experience large delays if the Minnesota Court of Appeals decides to allow a hearing of a school appeal.

 

The University filed an appeal Tuesday challenging a state decision to hold hearings about the classification of non-tenured faculty at the school. The Bureau of Mediation Services wanted to review the University’s claims that non-tenured faculty are a part of the Professional and Administrative unit rather than the faculty unit through its normal process.

 

The decision to appeal the ruling could further push back the date of a union vote. BMS planned to hold 16 hearings in late April and early May to decide on the classification of 10 different jobs, such as  senior lecturer and senior teaching specialist.

 

The move is the result of the University’s belief that BMS does not have the power to reassign employees from one bargaining unit to another, according to to the appeal.
 

“The University supports the rights of employees in a bargaining unit to hold a timely union election. We appealed not to delay an election, but to make sure the composition of eligible voters for the election complied with the law,” Office of Human Resources Director of Employee Relations Patti Dion said in an email statement. “We believe that partially combining these two bargaining units is counter to the law, and the rights of our employees, so we appealed.”

 

The University claimed in its appeal that BMS can only assign employees to units if they were not previously assigned or if the scope of the job has changed significantly since classification.
 

Though it is common for employers to take action to delay a union vote, John Budd, a professor who specializes in labor studies in the department of work and organizations in the Carlson School of Management, said the way the University is appealing is unique.

 

The school is objecting to BMS conducting the mediation services it was created to do, he said. He said the state agency had yet to rule on non-tenured faculty and only said the classifications needed to be examined.

 

“Essentially, the University is trying to say their expertise is better than the experts’ expertise,” Budd said.

 

Some faculty members who are in support of the union say they feel the University is deliberately attempting to delay the union vote.

 

Irene Duranczyk, an associate professor in the College of Education and Human Development, said the University’s actions do not match with what they previously had told her and other employees.

 

“I was really surprised because the University was talking about having an election as soon as possible,” she said. “It seems to contradict what they said.”

 

She said she worries that a delayed vote — in conjunction with a possible status quo ruling that disallows promotions and raises — would be harmful to faculty members. Those delayed raises would be sizable amounts of money, Duranczyk said.
 

Even if the state ruled to allow a dynamic status quo, which would allow for faculty raises and promotions before a vote is held, she said a prolonged legal battle deflates the force and energy of the unionization campaign.

 

Duranczyk said the University’s actions do not match with what they previously had told her and other employees.

 

“I was really surprised because the University was talking about having an election as soon as possible,” she said. “It seems to contradict what they said.”

 

She said she worries that a delayed vote — in conjunction with a possible status quo ruling that disallows promotions and raises — would be harmful to faculty members. Those delayed raises would be sizable amounts of money, Duranczyk said.

 

Even if the state ruled to allow a dynamic status quo, which would allow for faculty raises and promotions before a vote is held, she said a prolonged legal battle deflates the force and energy of the unionization campaign.

 

“I think it’s intentional,” Duranczyk said. “Maybe they think it will get them more time to draw anti-union support.”