Adjunct union reaches preliminary agreement

Gabriel Benson, Copy Editor

For the past year and a half, Augsburg’s administration and Augsburg adjunct instructors have put in over 100 hours in union negotiations. These efforts began following a vote by Augsburg adjuncts to unionize in late November 2016. The move to unionize was spurred by discontent from some adjuncts, teachers who are hired by the university on a part time basis, regarding pay, benefits and working conditions.

   As a result of the vote, Augsburg became the third private college in the Twin Cities, following Hamline University and the Minnesota College of Art and Design, to have their adjuncts unionize as part of the Minnesota chapter of the Service Employee International Union (SEIU).

    Currently, adjuncts teach over a third of Augsburg classes. Adjuncts have no job security as the institutions at which they teach have no obligation to rehire them or provide them with a certain number of classes to teach. Often, adjuncts have to teach at more than one institution in order to be working full-time. Sharon Gerlach, member of the bargaining committee, adds, “The current pay disparity between part-time adjuncts and full-time faculty can make it very difficult for adjuncts to earn a livable wage.”

   As of Friday, October 12, Augsburg and the Adjunct Faculty Union Bargaining Committee reached a tentative agreement. One of the largest concerns for the adjuncts was compensation. The current tentative agreement plans for salary per course to rise from $4,250 to $5,000 by Fall 2020, with incremental increases of $250 in Spring 2019 and Fall 2019.

   Additional benefits for the adjuncts now include: a fair grievance procedure, the right to apply for up to $600 in professional development funds designated for adjuncts, a 50% tuition discount for one course per semester (including graduate courses) should an adjunct wish to take an Augsburg course, course cancellation fees of $250 if a course is cancelled less than three weeks before the semester begins ($500 if less than two weeks and $750 if less than one week) and compensation for independent study instruction of $500 per student per semester. Additionally, beginning January 2020, adjunct faculty members may participate in the University’s Retirement Plan, and the University will match faculty contributions (up to 1% of salary).

   All of these benefits would mean a greater amount of security for adjuncts, the lowest paid classification of instructor, but both the adjuncts at large and the Augsburg administration still need to vote to ratify the tentative agreement before it is enacted in January.

    These negotiations highlight how Augsburg, outside of the classroom, must, in many ways, run like a business. Gerlach adds, “I understand that Augsburg has budget limitations, but I can’t think of anything more important than investing in the teaching faculty. After all, Augsburg exists in order to provide a quality education to its students.”

This article was originally published in the Oct. 19, 2018 issue. 

Hallway in Memorial where many Adjunct professors have temporary offices. Photo by Jim Pfeffer.