Ruling deals blow to faculty union drive at U’s Twin Cities campus

A Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling issued yesterday dealt a setback to faculty members organizing a union at the University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus, who are now weighing an appeal to the state’s Supreme Court.

The ruling overturned a decision by the Bureau of Mediation Services, which oversees public employee labor disputes in Minnesota, to allow contingent and tenure-track faculty members to form a united front in bargaining with the U of M, should they vote to form a union.

The faculty union, Minnesota Academics United, released a statement from its steering committee in response to the decision:

“We are disappointed that the Court of Appeals overruled the Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS). We believe that the Commissioner’s decision was the more accurate assessment of faculty labor on our campus, a decision reached based on a thorough and thoughtful process including meetings of the parties, lengthy hearings, and extensive legal arguments. We stand firm in our belief that contingent faculty and tenure-track faculty necessarily share a community of interest.

“The university administration’s position is driven by backwards priorities that value administrative prerogatives over intellectual excellence and student learning. The University’s position is a deliberate misinterpretation of what campus faculty do, explicitly intended to divide us in order to limit our power to protect and improve our working conditions, which are also our students’ learning conditions.

“Further, it relies on a fundamental disavowal of the value of our contingent colleagues’ teaching, research, and service to our campus community. This approach to university education is anachronistic and unacceptable. In spite of this unfavorable outcome in the Court of Appeals, we will continue to advocate for our students and colleagues through a variety of channels including a possible appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.”

Faculty members at the U of M filed their petition for a union election in January 2016.

Minnesota Academics United, an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, has 30 days to appeal the Court of Appeals ruling.


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