Bates College in Lewiston. Credit: CBS 13

Adjunct faculty and staff at Bates College are seeking to form a union at the Lewiston campus.

The Bates Educators and Staff Organization filed with the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election over the union question, the group announced Monday.

“In the coming days, we will continue to invite our co-workers across campus to join us. We are excited to include everyone, to discuss how to best protect what we love about working at Bates and how we can advocate together for what needs to improve at our institution,” the group said Monday.

The faculty and staff decided to move ahead with forming a union to improve students’ learning and living conditions, as well as to protect “our most under-compensated co-workers at the College.”

If successful, they will organize under the MESA-SEIU Local 1989. About 650 adjunct faculty and non-managerial and security staff are eligible to join the union.

Tenured and tenure-track faculty have also signed a petition asking Bates College President Clayton Spencer and the college’s trustees to not interfere in the union drive.

A spokesperson for the college wasn’t immediately available for comment.

It’s not the first union drive in recent history at the Lewiston college. In 1999, 75 dining and food service employees unsuccessfully pushed to organize, failing in a 33-41 vote, falling short of the majority needed, according to The Bates Student archive.

Organizers filed a complaint with the labor relations board alleging the college threatened employees’ benefits and jobs, but that complaint was later withdrawn, according to the student newspaper.

After the loss, the college announced a 10-point plan and other measures to address grievances that spurred the drive, according to The Bates Student archive.

This latest union bid comes amid a surge in workplace organizing since 2020, when Maine saw nearly 13,000 workers join a union, pushing the percentage of the state’s workforce represented by a union to the highest point in decades.

So far this year, Maine has seen a high-profile union drive among nurses at Maine Medical Center in Portland, as well as smaller organizing efforts at the Portland Museum of Art and among southern Maine transit workers.