More than 130 professional and clerical employees at Augsburg University in Minneapolis voted overwhelmingly Thursday to form a union, making them the first unionized professional staff at a private college in Minnesota.

Augsburg staff said they want to have a say in important decisions made by the university during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees have been furloughed, laid off and had their salaries cut due to pandemic-induced budget struggles. Other issues predate the pandemic, staff say, including "inadequate" paid parental leave and racial and gender pay gaps.

"At the very least — Augsburg staff are worthy to hold the power to have a say," said Deanna Davis, an academic program coordinator at Augsburg. "The more I've listened to my co-workers about what a staff union would mean to them, the clearer the need becomes for a union."

The results showed 75% of staff voted in favor of unionizing with Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 12.

Their campaign to unionize was years in the making before becoming public in October, when they requested formal union recognition. And it was mostly organized through Zoom meetings, phone calls, e-mail and other remote channels.

"The process has not been easy by any means. … I think this is a historic moment for us and for private colleges across the Twin Cities and Minnesota," said Maxwell Poessnecker, a member of the union organizing committee and Augsburg's director of LGBTQIA+ student services. "I really believe in the Augsburg mission."

Augsburg administrators have pledged to work with the union. The university on Thursday said the vote will "shape and inform our work lives together for years to come."

"We have already learned a great deal through frank discussions with valued Augsburg staff over the months leading up to this union election. Now we are looking forward to the constructive work ahead," the university's statement said.

Ryan Faircloth • 612-673-4234

Twitter: @ryanfaircloth