Faculty at the University of Minnesota are shelving a campaign to form a union on the Twin Cities campus, saying they will create an informal “workers’ association” instead to lobby for better working conditions.
The organizers announced Thursday that they are withdrawing their petition to hold a union vote after an almost two-year battle with the university. The organizing effort was dealt a setback in September when the Minnesota Court of Appeals sided with the university in a dispute over how many individuals were eligible to join such a union.
In a statement Thursday, the group, called Minnesota Academics United, said it would not appeal the ruling, which found that almost 1,000 adjunct instructors could not be included in the same bargaining unit as tenured professors. The group said it “is pulling the union election” and “moving forward as one united faculty by forming a workers’ association,” a voluntary group that does not have the legal standing of a union.
Amy Livingston, one of the leaders and a senior lecturer at the U’s Carlson School of Management, said the faculty was not giving up hope of unionizing eventually. “We actually think that there could be a path forward to unionization in the future,” she said. But “we’re not going to wait for a union or some legal process to play out.”
She said workers’ associations have other tools, such as protests and public pressure, to push the university for changes in working conditions. In general, adjunct instructors are paid less and have few, if any, of the benefits of tenured faculty members.
“We’re still in the process of figuring out what tools we’re going to use,” she said. “Frankly, I think the mood among faculty is that the U may wish that they had allowed us to form a union,” she added, because a workers’ association may include a broader swath of employees.
Kathy Brown, the university’s vice president of human resources, issued a statement to faculty members welcoming the suspension of the unionizing effort. “I look forward to partnering with you to continue to enhance our workplace so we can help the University achieve its important mission,” she said.
The effort was part of a campaign to organize adjunct faculty on college campuses, sponsored by the Service Employees International Union.