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Frequently Asked Questions Regarding SEIU Organizing Effort

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What’s At Issue?

Q1:      What is the administration’s position regarding a faculty union on the Twin Cities campus?

A1:      We respect the right of the faculty to vote on the question. We urge you to become informed and to cast a ballot on this important issue.

That said, we believe that introducing a third party would not help us achieve our mission as an institution. The current governance structure has worked well for more than 100 years and we think it continues to be the right model. As a result, we do not favor unionization of the Twin Cities faculty.


Q2:      Why does the administration oppose a faculty union?

A2:      Our position is shaped by our desire to maintain the University of Minnesota’s position as a premier research and teaching institution, a position we hold because our faculty include some of the best scholars in the world. We are concerned that a faculty union may harm our ability to attract and retain scholars who may view collective bargaining as a roadblock to recognition of individual abilities and meritorious service.

We do not believe a faculty union would help the University be more successful in carrying out its mission. We believe it would make the governance of the University more difficult and divided, and it would likely diminish our ability to apply appropriate accommodations to individual circumstances. We believe it has the strong potential to institutionalize “us versus them” mentalities between administration and faculty, between represented and non-represented peers, and between colleges. Additionally, if the bargaining unit includes teaching specialists and lecturers—who are primarily focused on teaching—the union could seek to prioritize those interests above other aspects of our mission.


Q3:      What is the process for a union election?

A3:      The process is governed by Minnesota law, specifically the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (Minnesota Statute Chapter 179A). PELRA defines the collective bargaining units at the University and lays out the process for an organizing effort. The Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services is tasked with administering and managing that process.

In January 2016, SEIU Local 284 submitted a petition to the BMS seeking an election of Unit 8, the Twin Cities faculty. In response, the BMS issued a “Maintenance of Status Quo” order to the University, which requires that the University not change any terms and conditions of employment for Unit 8 while the organizing effort is underway. The union then took the unprecedented step of asking the bureau to include 10 P&A classifications with Unit 8 faculty. Ultimately, the bureau added only four of the classifications to the faculty bargaining unit: teaching specialists, lecturers, senior teaching specialists, and senior lecturers. There are approximately 1,000 employees in these four job classifications on the Twin Cities campus.


The BMS’s decision is now pending before the Court of Appeals. We expect to know later this year whether it will be upheld or whether the court will determine that if there is a union election it will be confined to the faculty ranks. The appeal was taken because we believe the bureau’s action is counter to state law, which clearly separates faculty and P&A employees into separate bargaining units, and because it does not reflect the unique and critical role of the faculty. Faculty are responsible for setting the University’s strategic direction and moving forward all parts of the University’s tripartite mission of teaching, research, and outreach, unlike all other University employees.


Q4:      When will the vote be held? 

A4:      The Court of Appeals has ordered that the election be stayed until the appeal is decided. At this time, we do not know when a faculty election will be held, although it is clear that it will not be held during the 2017 spring semester.



Who Gets to Vote?

Q5:      Who is eligible to vote in the election?

A5:       That has yet to be determined.


Q6:      Are representation votes confidential?

A6:      Yes, the election will be conducted by a secret ballot and the BMS will tally the ballots. Neither the University nor the union will know how anyone voted.


Q7:      Are people who sign a card seeking an election obligated to vote in favor of a union?

A7:       No. Your vote is confidential and you are not obligated to vote for a union even if you signed a card.


Q8:      Can an individual faculty member opt out of the union if a majority of voters elect union representation?

A8:      No. If a union is elected, everyone holding a position in the bargaining unit (except those who are supervisors or work insufficient hours to be eligible to vote) is represented by the union. There is no provision in the law for an individual to opt out of union representation.


Q9:      Can any unit opt out of the election?

A9:      No. According to law, only the colleges in the Law School and the Health Sciences (now the Academic Health Center) have the right to sever (opt out) from instructional Unit 8, which they did several years ago. The law does not allow any other colleges to opt out.

The Law School and AHC colleges are the exceptions because of a statutory provision and vote that occurred several years ago.


Q10:    Can the Law School or AHC colleges opt back in to the election?

A10:    Yes. According to the statute the Law School and/or AHC can opt back in to Unit 8 by taking these steps:

  • An employee organization or group of employees petitions the commissioner for an election during the petitioning period, which is defined as between September 1 and November 1.
  • If the petition is supported by at least 30% of the employees in the Law School and/or AHC, the commissioner calls an election on rejoining Unit 8. The election must be conducted within 30 days of the close of the petition period.
  • If a majority of votes cast endorse returning to Unit 8 for the Law School and/or AHC, the commissioner certifies the result and all covered employees become part of the bargaining unit.


Q11:    What happens if a union is elected?

A11:    Collective bargaining begins. The union and the University’s negotiating teams would meet in a series of bargaining sessions to negotiate wages and other terms and conditions of employment. There are no time limitations on how long it could take to reach a tentative agreement. What is required is that the parties negotiate in good faith. When the parties reach a tentative agreement, it would be brought to members of the union and the Board of Regents for approval.


Q12:    Does an individual have to join the union or pay any dues if he or she does not want union representation?

A12:    Under Minnesota law, an individual is not required to join the union but must still pay a “fair share fee” as a member of the bargaining unit. A fair share fee can be up to 85% of membership dues.


Q13:    Are there exceptions to what a union could negotiate with the University on behalf of faculty?

A13:    Yes. The law does not require the University to negotiate matters of “inherent managerial policy,” including the criteria for promotion and tenure. Other examples are provided in the statute and include things such as organizational structure, the direction and number of personnel, and the use of technology.



What Is the Status Quo Order?

Q14:   What is a Maintenance of Status Quo Order?

A14:    When a union files for an election with Minnesota’s Bureau of Mediation Services the bureau issues a Maintenance of Status Quo Order that prohibits the employer from changing terms and conditions of employment.


Q15:    What can we do under the Status Quo Order?

A15:    On questions that relate to the terms and conditions of employment of those who might be a part of the union organizing effort, the law requires that we preserve the status quo until the representation issue is settled.


Q16:    Does the University have to comply with the Maintenance of Status Quo Order?

A16:     Yes.


Q17:    Under the Maintenance of Status Quo Order, can retention offers be made to current faculty who are entertaining offers from other universities?

A17:     Yes.


Q18:    Can faculty work reassignments be made?

A18:     Yes.


Q19:    If faculty members are physically moving their offices, can the moves continue?

A19:     Yes.


Q20:    Can new faculty be hired?

A20:     Yes.


Q21:   Can the University move forward and implement the proposed change to the faculty development leave policy?

A21:    No, leaves are generally a term and condition of employment and changes are prohibited by the Maintenance of Status Quo Order.


Q22:    Can faculty committee meetings continue?

A22:     Yes, but the committees cannot make changes on matters related to terms and conditions of employment or related policy matters.


Q23:    Will promotion and tenure go forward?

A23:     These regular processes will go forward and final decisions on grants of tenure and promotions can be made.



About Organizing Campaigns

Q24:    Can the union contact a faculty member at work?

A24:    Union representatives can contact faculty at work, but they cannot disrupt their work. For example, union organizers should not be contacting faculty in their classrooms or labs while faculty are working. If an organizer is asked to leave, he or she should do so.

By way of background, in 2015 SEIU Local 284 requested identifying information about the faculty. Under Minnesota’s Data Practices Act, it was our legal obligation to provide names, work location, and work phone numbers.


Q25:    A union representative came to my home. Is this a normal part of the organizing process?

A25:    It is a common practice for union organizers to visit employees at their homes. It is up to you, of course, to decide whether or not to invite someone into your home or ask them to leave.


Q26:    Can unions put pressure on faculty to join a union?

A26:    The law prohibits the union from interfering, restraining, threatening, or coercing anyone to vote in favor of a union. If you believe you or someone else has been subject to this type of conduct, please contact Patti Dion, 612-624-6556.


Q27:    Can the University help faculty take action to oppose the union?

A27:     The law constrains what an employer can do during a union election. We respect and will abide by the law governing union representation.

As an individual faculty member, you are free to share your thoughts and opinions with your dean, colleagues, and others, as well as to organize meetings for or against union representation. The law protects you against retaliation if you speak out on this issue, whether you support or oppose the union.



Other Topics

Q28:    How many University of Minnesota employees are currently represented by a union?

A28:    Slightly less than 25% of University employees are represented by 10 unions across all five campuses.


Q29:    How many faculty members on all campuses are currently represented by a union?

A29:    More than 650 faculty members in Duluth and Crookston are represented by the University Education Association. Their bargaining unit does not include teaching specialists or lecturers.


Q30:    Would Twin Cities’ faculty have the same contract as faculty in Duluth or Crookston?

A30:    No. If the SEIU organizing effort is successful, the union would negotiate a new contract for the Twin Cities faculty.


Q31:    Are faculty at other AAU schools represented by a union?

A31:    Six out of 62 AAU schools have a faculty union. None are represented by Service Employees International Union.


Q33:    Can the union get more research dollars into the University?

A33:    SEIU does not have a track record of securing research funding to our knowledge. 



Contact Information

University of Minnesota Twin Cities Campus

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