Minnesota State faculty file $1.6 million in claims for back pay

Andrew Neururer
Staff Writer

Faculty members working at Minnesota’s two-year colleges filed $1.6 million worth of claims for lost wages as part of a settlement met in May with the Minnesota State system of universities in St. Paul, Nov. 1. The filing deadline was on Thursday.

Ever since the settlement had been announced, officers and staff of the Minnesota State College Faculty union held a meeting with 710 faculty members to review the instructors’ work and pay records. Two hundred and fifty two members of that group filed documented claims worth $1,563,026.

“Unions are built on the idea that workers should be treated fairly – in an equal and not arbitrary way. We ensure that happens through collective strength and enforceable contracts,” said Matt Williams, president of MSCF. 

“In this case, we were able to restore $1.6 million in wages to our state’s educators – money they earned, but did not receive, entirely because of an arbitrary accounting system. That’s not just a victory for Minnesota’s educators – it’s a victory for workers everywhere.”

There were 23 claims for $15,000 or higher. The average claim was around $6,200.

The underlying wage dispute included how the college system calculated the pay for faculty with certain jobs assigned, such as educating in flex labs, individual studies and internships, or instructors who performed duties as department chairs and in related jobs. 

The settlement agreement birthed a process for faculty members to recover back pay for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years. The settlement held a maximum total payout of $1.9 million and mandated that the system make specific changes to make sure that it accurately compensates its faculty members in the future. Many faculty members benefited after the system office recalculated their pay in the 2018-19 academic year.

Under the terms of the agreement, faculty were required to file their claims by midnight Oct. 31. The union states the last claim was filed at 10:30 p.m. on Thursday. A referee chosen by both parties will review any discussed claims through the next two months.

The union started filing grievances for the pay calculations in 2010, reassuring that Minnesota State was not following the contract the two sides had negotiated together. The union took the grievances to binding arbitration in 2016. The arbitrator ruled for the union.

The union filed an unfair labor practices lawsuit in Ramsey County District Court in December 2017, alleging Minnesota State disrupted the law by refusing to comply with the arbitrator’s choice. The settlement that resolved the lawsuit was signed May 22.

“One of our most important roles as a union is to protect workers from arbitrary decisions by the employer. This nine-year effort demonstrates our resolve to enforce the agreements we have made with our employer and that the most effective way for us to do this is through harnessing our collective strength,” said Williams. “I want to personally thank the officers and staff at MSCF, the attorneys and other staff at Education Minnesota and all the hard-working member-leaders on the campuses. We could not have achieved this result without all of you.”

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