Wash U. adjunct professors, students hold victory rally to celebrate new contract

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“This is what a union has done for us, and this is what a union can do for you,” adjunct professor Michael O’Bryan said during a victory rally last Thursday at Washington University, where adjunct professors just won their first-ever union contract securing improved wages and job security. – Labor Tribune photo

Adjunct professors at Washington University, joined by more than 500 students, representatives from SEIU Local 1 and community leaders, held a victory rally on the school’s campus April 14 after reaching a tentative contract agreement with the school giving the part-time instructors better job security and higher pay.

Michael O’Bryan, an adjunct English and writing professor said the contract secured better pay, improved job security, access to university facilities and cancellation compensation for adjuncts whose scheduled courses are cancelled because not enough students enrolled.

“This is what a union has done for us, and this is what a union can do for you, no matter what profession you’re in,” O’Bryan said to cheers from the crowd of non-tenured professors, students and low-wage workers from across the city who attended the rally as part of last week’s Fight for $15 actions.

The victory rally was held in place of a planned walk out as part of Fight for $15 actions held across the city and nationwide on April 14 but was changed to a victory rally at the last minute after the adjuncts reached a four-year agreement with the university on April 13.

In addition to adjuncts and students, those attending the rally included janitors, fast food workers, home care aides, and others who work in underpaid industries.

furniture marketplace 3-17PRESSURE ON THE UNIVERSITY

The adjuncts said the agreement was reached after months of pressure on the university, including media attention, petitions, hundreds of calls to the university and support from political leaders, other unions, students, faculty and staff.

More than 800 members of the Washington University community, including students, faculty members and staff, and members of the wider St. Louis community signed and delivered petitions in support of the adjuncts.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

Christian Ralph, a pre-med student and member of Washington Univeristy’s Student Worker Alliance urged those at the rally to join in the Fight for $15 movement to continue to fight for a living wage for all workers.

“At first, it may not be easy to spot the similarities between the Fight for $15and the adjunct campaign, but the principle is very much the same,” Ralph said.

“For too long, workers in the United States have been disrespected and paid low wages for working full-time hours,” he continued. “Over 64 million Americans make less than $15 an hour and enough is enough!”

THE MOVE TO UNIONIZE

The more than 300 Washington University adjunct professors voted to join Service Employees International Union Local 1 on January 5, 2015. They were joined in October 2015 by more than 500 adjunct professors at St. Louis Community College, and in March 2016 by more than 300 adjunct professors at St. Charles Community College, who voted overwhelmingly to join SEIU Local 1.

SEIU Local 1 has been working with college and university professors throughout the Midwest to give them a voice on the job; address the low compensation for their work; and to ensure greater benefits and job security.

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