University of Minnesota Faculty Turn To Forming a “Worker’s Association” To Organize
By Doug Cunningham
Faculty at the University of Minnesota are shifting tactics in a push for worker power and organization at the university. The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled in September that barred tenured and non-tenured faculty from joining together in solidarity in one bargaining unit. Minnesota Academics United, affiliated with SEIU Local 284 filed for the union election back in January 2016.
Instead of appealing the court decision, faculty with instead form a “worker’s association”.
In a posted union video faculty like Marta Shore explained some of the issues driving faculty to want to organize at the University of Minnesota.
[Marta Shore]: “In the past ten years I have seen class size increases and tuition increase. When I was a TA in 2005 our labs were 25 students, so I was responsible for 50 students. I got to know the students. The class I’m teaching this Fall have 200 students.”
Shared governance of the university is one of the principles at stake as faculty organizes. Christian Korab said one problem in higher ed is market driven governance without sharing power with faculty.
[Christian Korab]: “It’s tied to this problem with higher education that says everything has to be understood in a business paradigm.
That’s fundamentally inconsistent with the whole idea of a public research institution.”
Organizing as a “worker’s association” rather than a union will mean the organization can advocate for employees but not necessarily bargaining with the employer. Of course, the employer would be free to recognize and work with the association on all issues if the administration chooses to respect the faculty worker organization.