Danny Reinan, news editor
Earlier this month, President Paul Pribbenow denied the Augsburg Staff Union’s campaign request for voluntary recognition from the university.
In the aftermath of COVID-19, with its layoffs, furloughs and overall uncertainty, staff are seeking transparency, equity and greater power in university-wide decisions. Voluntary recognition of the union would be the quickest path forward.
Now, the staff union representatives are hoping to move forward with an election through the MN Bureau of Mediation Services. They are awaiting a response from administration after hand-delivering a petition with over 600 signatures of support from community members directly to Pribbenow at last week’s Staff Union Vigil.
Although their request for voluntary recognition was denied, a group of staff union representatives and their supporters gathered on President Paul Pribbenow’s front lawn last week and sang “This Little Light of Mine” in a demonstration of unity and hope. The vigil was live streamed on the Augsburg Staff Union Facebook account, where representatives spoke about the importance of unionizing and the campaign’s next steps.
One such speaker was Maren Stoddard-Mack from the Center for Global Education and Experience (CGEE), who articulated the vulnerability that staff have been experiencing – both before and after COVID-19.
“Because there is so much at stake, Augsburg staff are on the front lines in so many different ways,” Stoddard-Mack said. “Some of the staff are on campus, interacting with students. Some staff work a little more behind the scenes. But everyone is on the front lines of living up to the policies and the needs of the university.”
For Stoddard-Mack, unionizing means addressing those vulnerabilities so that staff can focus on what matters most to them – their work. “Forming a staff union gives us a structure for accountability- to be responsible to each other, to our students, and to the community all around us. And we’re excited to form our unions to look out for one another, so we can free ourselves from overburdened work so we can focus on the jobs that we came to Augsburg to do.”
In his speech, Max Poessnecker, Director of LGBTQIA+ Student Services, expanded the importance of the staff union beyond the scope of Augsburg’s campus and to higher education as a whole. “[Unionizing] would mean that as a campus, we are actively working to dismantle systems that continue to uphold higher education, systems of racism, transphobia, classism, ableism, sexism, elitism, xenophobia,” he said. “Higher education was founded upon white supremacy. And no matter what tactics, if any tactics are used to attempt to divide staff, or to discourage us, we can and we will stay resilient by sticking together, educating one another, supporting each other, and staying united until we all win.”
After delivering the petition, representatives joined together to sing another song, “Walk Together Children,” with glow sticks. The fight for unionization continues but it is backed by a robust campus community and an administration that has expressed openness to collaborate.
Students and community members can sign a petition in support of the staff union and stay updated about the ongoing campaign on their website (augsburgstaffunion.org) and their social media pages: @AugsburgStaff (Twitter), @augsburgstaffunion (Instagram) and Augsburg Staff Union (Facebook).