Adjunct faculty at Washington University vote to join SEIU Local 1

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HIGHER ASPIRATION: Adjunct faculty at Washington University voted to unionize Jan. 5, following in the footsteps of adjuncts at nearly 20 universities who have joined SEIU/Adjunct Action in the past two years.
HIGHER ASPIRATION: Adjunct faculty at Washington University voted to unionize Jan. 5, following in the footsteps of adjuncts at nearly 20 universities who have joined SEIU/Adjunct Action in the past two years.

University’s part-time faculty latest to join a national movement to raise standards in higher education

St. Louis – Adjunct professors at Washington University have voted to join adjunct faculty at schools across the country in SEIU/Adjunct Action, following in the footsteps of adjuncts at nearly 20 universities who have joined Adjunct Action in the past two years.

Of 404 eligible faculty, 138 voted for collective bargaining Jan. 5, while 111 voted against. The ballots were counted at the National Labor Relations Board office in St. Louis.

Their decision marks the first victory for adjunct faculty members in St. Louis striving to improve the working conditions for themselves and an increasing number of part-time and contingent faculty members in higher education.

“This is a great day for faculty, students, and the entire community of higher education in St. Louis and throughout the region,” said Michael O’Bryan, who teaches in the English Department at Washington University.

“This victory is an important step toward improving the labor conditions of university faculty and, consequently, the learning experience of the students taught by those faculty,” O’Bryan said.

HIGHER TUITION, PART-TIME FACULTY

While revenues and tuition have increased steadily at colleges and universities over the last two decades, spending on instruction has declined.

It’s adjuncts and their deeply in debt students who are suffering as a result.

Forty-four percent of faculty in St. Louis area private, non-profit colleges and universities work part-time and 73 percent of all faculty are not on the tenure track.

Adjunct faculty, now represent the majority of teaching faculty across the country.

Adjunct instructors are typically part-time, low-wage earners, working on semester-long contracts with no guarantee that they will be asked to return.

With no job security, no benefits and low pay – many adjuncts are forced to string together jobs at multiple colleges and universities just to make ends meet.

Darcie Star, who teaches dance at Washington University, said, “By uniting in solidarity to form our union we are part of building a positive future and creating sustainable change for those working in higher education.

“This victory gives a voice to improved conditions for both faculty and students, as well as offering a platform for communication of needs and desires of those who provide service to the future generations,” Stat said.

RELIGIOUS UNIVERSITIES ALSO JOINING THE FIGHT

In a precedent-setting decision, the National Labor Relations Board, last month, affirmed the right of faculty at Pacific Lutheran University (PLU) to form a union with SEIU Local 925, significantly expanding the ability of faculty at religiously-affiliated institutions to have a voice in the decisions that matter for their profession and their students.

The case involved organizing efforts by contingent faculty at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington State.

The NLRB affirmed the right of faculty at PLU to form their union with SEIU Local 925, expanding the ability of faculty at many religiously-affiliated institutions to have a voice in the decisions that matter for their profession and their students.

The NLRB also ruled that neither full-time nor part-time contingent faculty at PLU have managerial status at the University and therefore could be included in the bargaining unit.

OTHER VICTORIES

Other universities whose adjuncts have voted recently to unionize include Dominican University, St. Mary’s College and Otis College of Art and Design in California; Howard University and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.; and Tufts University and Northeastern University in Boston.

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