Faculty members at Minneapolis College of Art & Design have voted to form a union, while adjunct instructors at Augsburg College have petitioned to hold their own union election, officials announced Wednesday.
The announcement suggests that faculty unions are starting to gain ground at Minnesota’s private colleges, two years after a national union began organizing in the state.
At MCAD, nearly two-thirds of the faculty voted for the union, which will represent about 100 full- and part-time instructors, according to the Service Employees International Union, which sponsored the organizing effort.
This is the second faculty union to win approval in Minnesota since 2014, when adjunct instructors voted to organize at Hamline University in St. Paul.
“I’m really excited,” said Daniel Dean, an adjunct media instructor who helped organize the union effort at the art school. “I think this opens up a new chapter for MCAD.” One of the goals, he said, is to “improve our working conditions as well as our students’ experience.”
College President Jay Coogan said in a statement: “While we are disappointed with the outcome of these votes, we respect the process and appreciate that so many members of our faculty participated in this important decision.”
MCAD “will negotiate in good faith” with the faculty, he said.
At colleges around the country, unions have been working to organize adjunct faculty, who typically are part-timers and may lack benefits or job security and are paid far less than tenure-track professors.
Dean said he and his colleagues were inspired by the adjuncts at Hamline, who negotiated improvements in pay and working conditions in their first union contract in February. “[That] was a shining example to us that this kind of thing is possible,” said Dean.
Meanwhile, adjunct instructors at Augsburg filed a petition last week with the National Labor Relations Board calling for a union election.
“We’ve been working on it since this past spring, and it’s been gaining steady momentum,” said Jessica Ennis, an adjunct physics instructor who has taught at Augsburg for eight years. She said some 40 percent of the college’s undergraduate classes are taught by adjuncts, who typically get paid $4,600 a course.
“Augsburg has one of the lowest pay rates in the Twin Cities area,” Ennis said. At the same time, she said, adjuncts are limited to part-time contracts and rarely know if they’ll have a job from one semester to the next. “You think you have a job, and it disappears,” she said. The union would represent about 260 adjunct instructors at Augsburg’s Minneapolis campus. The vote has not been scheduled.
A similar union election is pending at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus. This week, the university appealed a recent ruling by the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services, which would have set the stage for a vote this fall by some 2,500 adjuncts and professors.