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U of M union supporters win key bargaining point

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Fewer transfers at the U in the future
Students walk across the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus on Oct. 24, 2011.
Tim Post | MPR News 2011

Supporters of a faculty union at the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus have won a victory over the size of a potential bargaining unit.

The state Bureau of Mediation Services ruled Tuesday that the university's tenure-track faculty and their contingent colleges can pursue a combined union. The faculty petitioned in January to join the Service Employees International Union.

The university objected to combining tenure-track and contingent faculty, saying the groups don't have the same responsibilities. As presented in Tuesday's decision, the university's argument was, in part, that contingent faculty "are primarily responsible for contributing to the University's role as an institution of higher learning," while tenure-track faculty have multiple roles including research.

Lecturer Jason Stahl said while some contingent faculty may not do research, the groups have the same teaching duties.

He added that he and some of his contingent colleagues actually conduct research, even if it's not in their contracts. 

"We want tenure-track positions too, and we're not going to get them if we don't keep up our research," Stahl said. "It's just not institutionally supported."

The University declined to provide a representative to interview, but said in a statement it's reviewing the decision.

The Bureau of Mediation Services excluded six extension educator job classes from the bargaining unit, saying the majority of those faculty are not located at the Twin Cities campus. Union organizers said that group includes approximately 200 employees.

Stahl said he hopes administrators do not fight the ruling.

"My hope would be just let us vote and we'll see what way it goes. If we lose, well, we lose, right? And then we move on," Stahl said.

A date has not yet been set for a union vote.