Some teachers at the University of Missouri-St. Louis who are trying to form a union sued the state’s university system Thursday, alleging that the rules the board of curators set forth for organizing are too restrictive.
They contend there are gender and minority wage gaps, and that the best way to close them is to unionize. The effort started last summer on the heels of successful union votes at other colleges in the region.
The University of Missouri System’s Board of Curators spelled out the timelines and voting rules for UMSL teachers to organize, as required by state law. But faculty and union reps say those rules are unfair.
Adjunct English professor Michael Smith said the issues include what some faculty members believe is an unreasonably short window of time — 90 days — to collect enough union cards to hold a vote, as well as 60 days to hold that vote.
Plus, Smith said, the rules say the unionization effort must pass by a majority all faculty members, not just those who actually cast a ballot, adding, “if you can’t make it out for the election, then your vote is essentially something you didn’t vote for.”
With the help of the Service Employees International Union, UMSL professors asked the UM System to amend the rules, but Smith says those requests have been ignored and that the lawsuit is “the only way forward.”
SEIU Local 1 organizer Stacie Manuel also asserted: “By administration not passing a fair process that essentially mirrors what other people are able to access, other workers across the state, it bars people from being able to organize and make those improvements on campus."
John Fougere, a spokesman for the University of Missouri System, declined to comment. UMSL spokesman Bob Samples said the matter is being handled by the UM System, but that UMSL feels its faculty are well represented and a union would “alter that relationship.”
SEIU recently helped Washington University and St. Charles Community College adjunct faculty unionize. Unionization attempts at Webster University failed.
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