Terrence Shambley Jr., executive editor
Augsburg staff delivered a letter to President Paul Pribbenow and the Board of Regents on Oct. 29 informing them of their decision to form a labor union in partnership with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 12. The letter included 106 signatures that represent a majority of support from Augsburg’s union-eligible staff.
The Augsburg Staff Union’s sole request to the university is to be voluntarily recognized. Voluntary recognition is the quickest and least contentious route to unionization, according to an email update from the Augsburg Staff Union Organizing Committee. The alternative route is an election process overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, a federal agency governed by officials appointed by U.S. President Donald Trump. The Staff Union has given President Pribbenow until Nov. 5 to respond to their request.
Staff announced their formation to the public at a gathering in Murphy Square Park. Three members of the organizing committee attempted to deliver the letter to President Pribbenow following his speech at Hoversten Chapel’s Thursday morning worship. However, the letter was delivered to President Pribbenow’s executive assistant; the union delegates found that Pribbenow left the chapel immediately after his speech due to lunch plans.
Katie Asfeld, who works in the Transfer Admissions office, underscores the point of people seeing staff’s decision to unionize as a key part of Augsburg’s mission. “At the end of the day our goal really is to empower and protect staff so that we can do our work of serving students to the best of our ability. I’m excited for staff to have a voice at the table because for so long we’ve kind of been left out of a lot of conversations that directly impact our ability to do well… Some folks might think this is adversarial and that’s not the case at all. We’re doing this because we believe in the Augsburg community and because we believe in the mission.”
Despite delivering their letter directly to President Pribbenow’s office, the Staff Union received an email from Augsburg’s Human Resources (HR) department the morning of Oct. 30. HR denied the union’s request, claiming that voluntary recognition of the union would deprive employees of their right to seek representation through the National Labor Relations Board. The Staff Union announced on their social media that they are “enthusiastically moving forward in the campaign for recognition and [await] President Pribbenow’s response.”
Our writer asked staff if they are prepared for the journey ahead if the university decides not to voluntarily recognize them. “Yes, we are prepared,” says Lauren White, a staff member from Institutional Advancement. “We hope of course that they just live up to their values and do what they know is right and honor us and our request. But if they don’t, we have a series of possible next steps that we can take to try to work with them to make it happen. We don’t want it to be an adversarial relationship. We’re all in this together.”
Students and community members can support Augsburg staff in their movement to unionize by signing a petition available on their social media: Facebook (Augsburg Staff Union), Instagram (@augsburgstaffunion) and Twitter (@AugsburgStaff).