Welcome back to another exciting academic year. We have the opportunity to work in a wonderful profession. Entering the classroom for the first time each fall and getting in front of students is one of the most rewarding moments I have experiences of my career. I’m sure many of you feel the same way. I took over as President of the IFO in July, and this will be the first fall in more than 30 years that I don’t get to experience that moment – and I truly miss it.
This year, more than ever the IFO faces enormous challenges. First, in late June the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a major blow to public employees by ruling against us in the Janus V. AFSCME case. This ruling makes all states “right-to-work;” it will have a negative financial impact on the IFO, and on our union colleagues around the country.
However, this setback will only be temporary.
Our membership numbers have increased dramatically since the Janus ruling; we will continue to work on our campuses to have conversations with faculty about the importance of a strong and robust membership. Our campus teams are having face-to-face conversations about the work of the union and making sure our faculty know that everyone is welcome and valued. If you’re interested in getting involved in these efforts, please click here to fill out the form and someone from your campus will be in touch. We need faculty to step up and get involved more than ever.
Shortly after the Janus ruling, the IFO faced an even more direct challenge. A lawsuit was filed against the IFO and MinnState by an ideologically anti-union professor from one of our universities claiming that our contract and statutory right to exclusive representation are unconstitutional. Make no mistake about it, this lawsuit is part of a nationally coordinated strategy aiming to destroy collective bargaining. It is a direct attack on our shared values and collective voice.
United, we are powerful advocates – and our solidarity jeopardizes the national anti-labor organizations behind these attacks.
We are confident that we will prevail in this case. We are also confident that our members know that a strong faculty union is vital to the success of our students and communities, and that our members will do whatever is necessary to strengthen our union. In the face of these attacks, we stand united and will continue our mission of providing an extraordinary education that is accessible and affordable for all.
We also are working with a new Chancellor of the MinnState system. Chancellor Devinder Malhotra has quickly changed the tone of the system office and has worked hard to earn our trust. A new initiative of the Board of Trustees was recently announced – Reimagining Higher Education. This initiative will build a vision of how we move forward as a system. We will not stand idly by as this process develops. We are working to ensure the voice of faculty will be part of this process. We refuse to accept the turmoil and misguided process of Charting the Future.
Becky Omdahl, the new IFO Academic Affairs Coordinator will be visiting campuses throughout the fall and meeting with faculty to collect input and develop our own vision for the future of higher education and for our institutions. We understand many of our campuses face severe budget shortfalls and declining enrollment. We intend to be a partner in efforts to boost enrollment and to move our budgets toward meeting the needs of our students and our communities. More information will come soon regarding this important process.
Let me finish by simply saying, “thank you.” Thank you for all that you do for your colleagues as a member of the IFO, everything you do for your students, and everything you do to make Minnesota a great state to be a faculty member and a resident.