By WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – On Thursday, Augsburg University staff voted to unionize, becoming the first unionized professional staff of a private university in the state.

An overwhelming majority – 75% of the 134 professional and clerical employees – voted to form their union with OPEIU Local 12.

The campaign focused on the connection between the well-being of staff members and the support they give to students. Amid the pandemic, they have been concerned with recent layoffs, pay cuts, and safety concerns. There have also been long-standing issues surrounding the lack of paid parental leave, racial and gender pay gaps, and increasing work loads without compensation.

“As Augsburg staff, we deserve clearer job descriptions with limits on the additional responsibilities an employee can take on without commensurate pay. We need a paid parental leave benefit where employees do not have to rely on accrued paid time off. We have proven we can help Augsburg thrive while working remotely. At the very least — Augsburg staff are worthy to hold the power to have a say,” said Deanna Davis, an Academic Program Coordinator.

The staff’s effort to unionize became public in October when they requested recognition from the university, but the campaign has been going on for over a year. In the past months, as the pandemic changed day-to-day life, their coordination shifted to online efforts, organizing through Zoom calls, emails, and texts.

“The last year has clarified that we need to be at the table when decisions are being made about our working conditions and employment at Augsburg,” said Mike Bloomberg, a librarian. “We need systems in place to protect and support each other, and a legally binding contract will give us those systems.”

Next, the union will begin negotiating their contract with the university’s administration, who have said they will work with the union in good faith.