President to Hold Six Forums on Adjunct Union Issues

St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan will hold six forums with adjunct faculty members over the next two weeks to discuss issues related to whether a union should represent them.

The first forum will be at noon Tuesday, June 17, in Room 340 of the Anderson Student Center for College of Arts and Science adjunct faculty. Dean Terence Langan will join Sullivan for the hour-long forum.

Subsequent forums will be for all adjunct faculty:

  • Friday, June 20, 9:30-10:30 a.m., 340 Anderson Student Center.
  • Friday, June 20, noon-1 p.m., 202 Opus Hall, Minneapolis campus.
  • Sunday, June 22, 4:30-5:30 p.m., 340 Anderson Student Center.
  • Monday, June 30, noon-1 p.m., 366-367 Anderson Student Center.
  • Tuesday, July 1, noon-1 p.m., 252 Terrence Murphy Hall, Minneapolis campus.

Sullivan encouraged adjunct faculty to attend the forums to learn more about the issues, to gain a better understanding of the university’s position and to share their own perspectives.

“The forums will provide an excellent opportunity to discuss the issues,” Sullivan said. “I look forward to meeting more adjunct faculty at the forums, engaging in meaningful conversations and answering their questions.”

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has scheduled an election for next month to determine if Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 284 will represent St. Thomas adjunct faculty who teach undergraduate courses.

Ballots will be mailed to about 300 eligible voters on July 3, and the NLRB must receive the ballots by 4:30 p.m. July 18 or they will not be counted. Thus, voters are encouraged to allow sufficient delivery time when they mail their ballots. They will be counted on July 21, and the majority of votes cast will determine if SEIU will represent adjunct faculty.

St. Thomas’ position

In recent emails and letters, Sullivan urged adjunct faculty to fully inform themselves about the issues in order to make “an informed choice.” She encourages all members of the St. Thomas community to access the St. Thomas website, which is updated frequently to provide information about – and resources related to – the issues and the voting process.

Sullivan told adjunct faculty that she strongly values their role and respects their right to make a free choice about union representation, but she does not believe a union and its collective bargaining process is their best option.

“It is in the best interest of the university and our adjunct faculty to continue to work directly and cooperatively with each other, rather than through a third-party union that is not familiar with our mission, community and culture,” she wrote. “Direct and collaborative engagement is necessary to timely and effectively address adjunct faculty concerns and to ensure that we are providing the best possible education to our students.”

St. Thomas has taken several steps over the past year, without union involvement, to work with adjuncts to improve compensation, benefits and recognition of their role at the university, Sullivan said. Additional ideas have surfaced during strategic planning discussions.

“I hope you will give my new administration the opportunity to act on the recommendations for improving the situations of our adjuncts before determining that a union is necessary,” she said.

Voting eligibility and the election process

The SEIU is attempting to organize adjunct faculty around the country, with an emphasis on certain metropolitan areas, including Minneapolis and St. Paul. Adjunct faculty at Hamline University began voting two weeks ago on whether to unionize, and an election at Macalester College was called off June 2 because adjunct faculty wanted more time for discussion.

St. Thomas adjunct faculty are eligible to vote if they taught during the fall 2013 semester, January 2014 Term or spring 2014 semester or were contracted by June 6 to teach in the June or July 2014 summer sessions. The group includes part-time, nontenured and nontenure-track faculty who teach undergraduate credit courses or labs on the St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses and are identified by titles including (but not limited to) adjunct faculty, senior adjuncts, participating adjuncts, supporting adjuncts and adjuncts.

St. Thomas has encouraged eligible adjunct faculty to ensure they receive a ballot on a timely basis by confirming the accuracy of their contact information, including home address and email address if they prefer a non-UST email, through the Murphy online system.

If adjunct faculty have not received a mail ballot within a few days after July 3, they should contact the NLRB regional office at (612) 348-1757 by 4:30 p.m. July 10 to receive a duplicate ballot.