Part-Time Profs at St. Kate’s Reject Union

Most college professors self-identify as liberal. Yet time and again professors expose their hypocrisy when facing a litmus test of their convictions in the real world–union representation.

The latest case of faculty expressing their solidarity against establishing a bargaining unit on a Twin Cities campus occurred among adjunct professors at St. Catherine University in St. Paul.

SEIU Faculty Forward organizers  pulled out all the stops, playing the social justice card in quoting the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in their campaign.

“If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected–the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.”

But in the end SEIU criticized the hardball tactics employed by the liberal bastion to defeat the union in the Star Tribune.

The result was disappointing to organizers, who said the university “stacked the deck against faculty having a unified voice.”

“We continue to stand with faculty and students at St. Kate’s who deserve better than the current situation,” SEIU Local 284 executive director Carol Nieters said in a written statement. “We look forward to finding a path for faculty to come together in a way that can’t be subverted by high-priced lawyers and corporate anti-union tactics.”

St. Kate’s administration, also reliably liberal except when it involves the institution’s self interest, equivocated on cue, contending St. Kate’s isn’t necessarily against unions.

The fight over unionizing wasn’t an “easy process” for the community, said ReBecca Koenig Roloff, president of St. Catherine University. “There were two passionate sides to this unionization question. Discussions were vigorous and sometimes quite heated.”

But the debate was respectful, she added, noting she doesn’t view the result of the election as a win for a “nonunion position, per se.”

“I believe it’s more so an affirmation of the way our adjunct faculty and university leadership have worked closely with one another over the course of the last year to achieve real progress in areas such as compensation, benefits and professional development,” she said.

Adjunct faculty on three Twin Cities campuses have joined forces with big labor in recent years, while a handful of other institutions of higher learning have not. Yet union organizers recently gave up on the biggest prize of all–the University of Minnesota.

Faculty members at the University of Minnesota recently shelved their attempt after the Minnesota Court of Appeals sided with the university in a dispute over how many individuals were eligible to join a union. After a two-year battle to organize, the U’s faculty said it will create an informal “workers association” to lobby for better working conditions with some hoping that they will be able to unionize in the future.