Adjunct faculty members at the University of St. Thomas Monday voted overwhelmingly against union representation by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 284. Gray Plant Mooty’s Labor Law and Higher Education Practice Teams served as labor counsel to St. Thomas in the union representation process. Since the union filed its petition for an election on May 23, GPM has been working intensively with the General Counsel’s office at St. Thomas to advise on the labor law, handling matters before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), assisting the university’s election campaign, and providing strategic and operational support and project management.
SEIU has been aggressively and successfully organizing adjunct faculty into union representation nationally through its Adjunct Action
arm. This union has won 11 of 12 adjunct faculty union elections at private institutions of higher education across the country in the past 32 months. Adjunct Action expanded its focus to new regions around the beginning of 2014. The Twin Cities is one of the announced targets of the union’s organizing efforts. A similar election at Macalester College was called off by the union last month, but adjunct faculty at Hamline University recently voted for union representation by a wide margin. The vote at St. Thomas bucked strong national and local trends, with our client’s adjuncts voting overwhelmingly against unionization by 134 to 86, a nearly 62% vote margin. 81% of eligible voters turned out by mailing in ballots to the NLRB.
Among the keys to this remarkable result for St. Thomas were the personal commitment of University President Julie Sullivan to maintaining first priority focus on the quality of student education, and to convincing voters to give her new administration a chance to work with them directly toward that end without interference from a union.
Under the law, the election result cannot be certified by the NLRB until after a seven day waiting period. If no objections are filed, the NLRB is expected to certify the election July 29. If objections are filed, the certification will be delayed indefinitely while the NLRB works through its standard processes to address the objections. President Sullivan stated in an email to adjunct faculty
that she is pleased with the result and is prepared to communicate and initiate an action plan addressing the top-level adjunct faculty priorities identified over the past year.
*Photo Courtesy of Minnesota 2020