How does the union support legislative efforts regarding student debt, retirement benefits, cradle to grave education, tax reform and other issues relating to the state of education and labor across the nation?
Last year, SEIU Local 284 took part in a national push that won strong, common sense regulations of the for-profit college sector and secured half a billion dollars in debt forgiveness for defrauded students who went to for-profit schools. And, in 2013, Local 284 led the fight to Pay Back Our Kids after the 2011 legislature shut down the government and “borrowed” over $2 billion from school districts to balance the budget. This year, Local 284 led an effort at the state capitol, and partnered with student and community organizations, to invest part of our budget surplus in proposals that will directly impact U students, including a student loan tax credit and a decrease in tuition. These initiatives are part of the SEIU vision to make education accessible and affordable to all Minnesotans from cradle to career.
SEIU members have made a permanent and ongoing commitment to help other people form unions and negotiate excellent contracts. At Hamline, adjunct faculty won raises of 20-30% – their first raises in over 10 years – as well as professional development funds and compensation for course development and late cancellations. In the California State system, faculty recently won $11 million in state funding for new tenure lines. The current energy in higher education organizing is due to the work of SEIU members.
SEIU’s membership shares our concern about the worrisome trends in higher education that are transforming public universities across the country, including the U of M. These trends include increased reliance on contingent instructors instead of tenure lines as a cost-saving measure, growing corporatization and administrative bloat, and the alarming decrease in state funding. We face decreasing public support, increasing reliance on corporate sponsorship of research, and skyrocketing tuition costs and student debt. We need to think more creatively about how to reverse these trends.