Adjunct faculty at St. Catherine University have voted against union representation — the latest in a battle taking place on campuses throughout the country.
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) failed to win a majority of votes in a push to represent adjunct faculty at St. Catherine, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), announced Monday.
The result was disappointing to organizers, who said the university "stacked the deck against faculty having a unified voice."
"We continue to stand with faculty and students at St. Kate's who deserve better than the current situation," SEIU Local 284 executive director Carol Nieters said in a written statement. "We look forward to finding a path for faculty to come together in a way that can't be subverted by high-priced lawyers and corporate anti-union tactics."
Proponents of the move to organize say adjuncts have become the working poor of higher education, with lower pay and few perks of regular faculty members.
The fight over unionizing wasn't an "easy process" for the community, said ReBecca Koenig Roloff, president of St. Catherine University. "There were two passionate sides to this unionization question. Discussions were vigorous and sometimes quite heated."
But the debate was respectful, she added, noting she doesn't view the result of the election as a win for a "nonunion position, per se."
"I believe it's more so an affirmation of the way our adjunct faculty and university leadership have worked closely with one another over the course of the last year to achieve real progress in areas such as compensation, benefits and professional development," she said.
The fight to organize has been playing out on Minnesota campuses for several years.
Faculty members at the University of Minnesota recently shelved their attempt after the Minnesota Court of Appeals sided with the university in a dispute over how many individuals were eligible to join a union. After a two-year battle to organize, the U's faculty said it will create an informal "workers association" to lobby for better working conditions with some hoping that they will be able to unionize in the future.
At least three private colleges in the Twin Cities have unionized. Hamline University in St. Paul was the first in 2014, followed by the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and Augsburg College.
An effort to organize at the University of St. Thomas failed and a vote to unionize was abruptly called off at Macalester College.