Adjunct faculty at St. Catherine University filed cards Thursday to trigger a union election to join the Service Employees International Union Local 284. The election would cover about 100 adjunct faculty at the school, commonly referred to as “St. Kate’s.”
The National Labor Relations Board will schedule the election for this summer unless there are objections from St. Kate’s administration.
The election would come less than a year after Minnesota College of Art and Design and Augsburg College faculty voted to join the union and adjunct faculty at Hamline University won their first union contract after forming their union in 2015.
Peter Morales, adjunct faculty teaching art at St. Kate’s, said he and other adjunct faculty need a stronger voice to improve higher education for students and faculty at St. Kate’s.
“I love teaching and working with students, but I find that to make a decent living I have to juggle so many other work responsibilities that it is difficult to offer my students the additional attention they and their work require from time to time,” Morales said. “Colleges and Universities depend more and more on contingent faculty to contain costs. We are coming together at St. Kate’s to address these issues and improve St. Kate’s for faculty and students.”
Morales also teaches at Hamline, where adjunct faculty joined SEIU Local 284 in 2015 and won a strong first contract in 2016.
“At Hamline University we had a successful unionization and my experience has been a positive one,” he noted. “I have received a substantial increase in pay and I know that I won’t have to wait a decade to receive periodic cost-of-living increases. I also have access to faculty development and I have been able to participate more fully in academic life.
“Additionally, I have also received more support and consideration from tenure-track faculty. I look forward to similar gains at St. Kate’s when we win our union and bargain our first contract.”
Noting that St. Kate's is a Catholic school, Gregory King, who serves as the co-chair of the Education Equity Team with the faith group ISAIAH, expressed hope that the administration at St. Kate’s would remain neutral and not try to stop the vote from happening.
"As a practicing Catholic, I wholeheartedly support the rights of the adjunct faculty at St. Catherine's (or at any university) to form a union if they so choose, as it is in keeping with the tenets of Catholic social teaching regarding the dignity of work and rights of workers,” King said.
In addition to the wins at MCAD, Augsburg and Hamline, tenure-track and contingent faculty at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities campus filed for a union election in 2016 and await their election to be ordered by the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services.
Workers are organizing through unions and other organizations to improve their lives. Union representation provides a voice on the job and the opportunity to improve wages, benefits and working conditions.