St. Thomas adjunct professors reject union

The arched entryway to St. Thomas's St. Paul campus.

The arched entryway to St. Thomas's St. Paul campus.

Weeks after Hamline University adjuncts became the first in the state to form their own union, St. Thomas adjuncts voted against following suit.

In the days following Hamline's vote, adjuncts at the school expressed confidence that St. Thomas would head down the same path. But in voting tallied Monday, St. Thomas adjuncts voted against unionizing by a 136-84 margin.

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We contacted Service Employees International Union spokesman Josh Keller for comment. He referred us to this statement put together by St. Thomas organizing committee leaders Lucy Saliger (English), Kara ZumBahlen (art history) and Jason Skirry (philosophy):

We are disappointed with the results of today's election, but are incredibly proud of the gains this campaign achieved by bringing the reality faced by adjuncts at St. Thomas out of the shadows. By starting this process, we've initiated a long-overdue dialogue with leadership at St. Thomas that has not happened for far too long. We will continue our fight to improve higher education for adjunct faculty and the students we serve, but we know a union contract is the only way to attain and secure the things we need to address the crisis facing adjunct faculty across the state and country. We look forward to taking part in the meetings proposed by President Sullivan where we will continue to advocate for ways to improve conditions for adjuncts. We are more determined than ever to ensure that St. Thomas lives more fully by its mission statement for students and all members of its community, including adjunct faculty.
In a statement of her own, St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan writes that she's "pleased" about the vote and adds, "As soon as I am permitted to do so under the law, I am prepared to communicate and initiate an action plan addressing the top-level adjunct faculty priorities identified over the past year."

"These priorities include adjunct faculty benefits, compensation, differentiated contracts based on workloads, consistency in contract issue dates, a formal role in the shared governance process, professional development funding, established venues for communication and interaction among adjunct faculty and with the administration, and more meaningful opportunities for engagement in the life of the university," Sullivan continues.

"I want to thank each of the adjunct faculty, who held varying opinions about union representation, for participating in the constructive dialogue that has occurred since the petition was filed two months ago. I am grateful that my administration had the opportunity to hear firsthand from so many of you about the election as well as the pleasure you derive from teaching at St. Thomas."

Though the SEIU has until July 28 to file formal objections about the campaign leading up to the St. Thomas vote, Keller tells us he isn't aware of any plans to do so.

With the Hamline campaign in the rear-view mirror, a unionization vote at Macalester indefinitely delayed, and the St. Thomas result now in the books, Keller, asked about whether any other adjunct unionization campaigns are forthcoming, says, "That's it for now."

Send your story tips to the author, Aaron Rupar. Follow him on Twitter @atrupar.