FAQ: Organizing & Unionization

Why are we organizing?
The Faculty of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design are organizing as an appropriate and collective response to the current state of affairs surrounding higher education.  We seek to secure legally binding contracts that strengthen faculty leadership and governance while ensuring that MCAD offers educational programs that respond to students’ interests and needs. We seek to effectively advocate for shared interests and build solidarity across disciplines and levels of employment, while also expecting the institution to uphold its mission to cultivate a culture of respect, accountability, and integrity.  We seek to improve job stability and security for faculty by supporting a coherent and consistent departmental membership which will benefit student learning and retention. By coming together to form a legal union, we can collectively raise standards for all faculty, and have a true voice in the decisions that effect us and the students we teach, for now and in the future.

Who will be in charge of our union?
We will make all of the decisions for our own union. We will have officers and approval of contracts will be decided by a majority vote, but all members can help shape our union through completing bargaining surveys, serving on committees, and electing officers. All of the proposals for our contract will come from us. And during the process of achieving a contract with the school, we will decide when the proposed contract is good enough to be ratified by a majority vote.

How does a union work?
Having a union empowers people to make positive changes where they work. Having a union does not guarantee any particular improvement or benefit, but a union is the tool working people, like college and university faculty, use to make improvements where they work. Through the legal power of collective bargaining, instructors across the country have won a voice at the table and have won the right to negotiate with their college and university administrations.

What will a union mean for me in real terms?
Forming a union enables contingent faculty to negotiate collectively for better terms of employment, using democratic processes to ensure that the interests of all faculty are represented. A union contract will establish a floor for what constitutes fair treatment and compensation, not a ceiling.

What have others achieved by forming a union?
Across the country, faculty have negotiated contracts that have won: pay increases, professional development funds, “just cause” clauses protecting members from arbitrary discipline or discharge, and a defined rate of compensation in the event of course cancellation, among other improvements. Because this is our union, what we achieve in bargaining will reflect our priorities and issues specific to MCAD. Most importantly, forming a union will allow us to have a voice in determining our working conditions.

I am full-time, how does this apply to me?
Whether you are full or part-time, we all need a strong voice to do our jobs better. Together, part-time and full-time at MCAD share many of the same concerns. With a union, for example, all faculty could potentially bargain for continuous appointments and dismissal only for “just cause.” Working alongside each other on common goals would benefit everyone. Full-time faculty could advocate for better retirement, salaries, and health care options. They can also use their union to strengthen faculty governance.

What will a union mean for our Faculty Senate?
With a union contract, we can empower our Faculty Senate and make our participation in shared governance more meaningful. For example, the California State University system contract explicitly recognizes “the unique roles and responsibilities of the Academic Senate(s).” In the California State system, the Faculty Senate governs academic issues, while the union negotiates workplace issues. Union members there are full participants in the Faculty Senate, and they’ve successfully used the power of their union to protect faculty voice in academic governance. Likewise at the University of Oregon, their union contract explicitly recognizes their Faculty Senate and requires their administration to consult the Senate on academic issues.

When is the union election happening?
Ballots for the election will be mailed out October 4th and need to be mailed back by October 18th.

How long will this take?
The voting usually happens four to six weeks after the cards are filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for an election, but the process may take longer. Once the ballots are counted, if there are more “yes” votes than “no” votes, we will then have a seat at the table with MCAD to improve our pay, benefits and working conditions by negotiating a union contract. Currently we’re waiting for a community of interest ruling from the regional NLRB which will determine who will vote in our election. Shortly after that, an election date will be set.

What happens when we win our union election?
Faculty will have the opportunity to come together and determine their priorities for their first contract with MCAD. This means completing bargaining surveys and selecting their representative bargaining team composed of their peers, and backed by their union. This process usually takes six months to 18 months, but legally can take up to 2 years.

How much will dues be? What will dues be used for?
As members of SEIU Local 284, we will pay 2.1% of our gross salaries, with a monthly maximum of $75 during the months in which you’re contracted to work.  Part time employees do not pay dues when they are not receiving a paycheck from the college. That rate was set by the members of SEIU Local 284, and any changes are always approved by our union’s membership. However, no one pays dues until we have: 1) voted to form our union; 2) bargained our first contract; and 3) voted as a group to approve our first contract. In other words, we will not pay any money into the union before we know exactly what gains we’ve achieved through bargaining. We will decide whether our first contract is worth our dues money. Union dues pay for the cost of contract negotiations, representation and enforcement of our contracts, helping other workers join our union, and uniting our strength with other union members in Minnesota and across the country. Our union has a separate, voluntary political fund that supports political activity.

Who is SEIU?
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has become the leader in representation of academic faculty, representing over 40,000 adjuncts across the county.  SEIU has joined forces with the Faculty Forward movement to help transform the current crisis in higher education.  We have decided to join together with SEIU.  http://seiufacultyforward.org/about-us/