MCAD faculty members voting in union election this month


photo: Minnesota Private College Council

Like thousands of faculty members on campuses across the country, faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design are seeking a stronger voice to advocate for themselves and their students – and they’re organizing a union in order to get it.

MCAD’s part- and full-time faculty members will vote by mail in separate organizing elections this month, deciding whether to form bargaining units represented by Local 284 of the Service Employees International Union. The National Labor Relations Board will count ballots Oct. 19.

Before petitioning for an NLRB election, a majority of MCAD’s 100-plus faculty members signed cards in support of forming a union. Collective bargaining, union supporters said, would give faculty members a seat at the table in decisions that affect their teaching conditions and their students’ learning conditions.

Full- and part-time faculty members agreed their organizing drive is part of a broader effort to push back against some troubling trends in higher education – a “corporatizing” effect, full-time MCAD Professor Frenchy Lunning said, that makes top scholars less likely to enter the field.

“For me, this is about the future of higher education,” part-time MCAD faculty member Dawn Pankonien, a political economist, said. “It is about ensuring pay rates and job security that will allow not only secondary but also primary household earners to assume positions as educators without needing to arrive at their morning lectures after working night shifts in other industries.”

If they vote to unionize, MCAD faculty would join over 11,000 faculty nationwide who have formed unions with SEIU in the last three years.

That includes adjunct faculty at Hamline University in St. Paul, who voted to join Local 284 in June 2014. Since then, more than half of faculty members on campus have seen their base pay increase by 20 percent – the first pay increase in more than a decade for many instructors.

Tenure-track and contingent faculty at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities campus are on track to vote in a union election after an organizing drive with Local 284 as well.

Hamline adjunct professor David Weiss said he looks forward to welcoming MCAD and U of M faculty into the local soon.

“Together with faculty at other colleges and universities across the Twin Cities, we can raise standards for our students and stop the race to the bottom in higher education,” Weiss said.

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