Service Employees International Union | St. Louis Public Radio

Service Employees International Union

Michael Smith, an adjunct English professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis speaks at a small union rally on Thursday, March 23, 2017.
Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

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.

College of St. Louis community college meramec, umsl and washington university
St. Louis Public Radio file photos

As faculty members at the University of Missouri-St. Louis continue talking about forming a union, part-time teachers at Washington University are working under the first semester of their union contract.

And though some Washington U. adjuncts have questions about how much benefit the union will actually provide, organizers say the contract is working well, though they acknowledge that a period of adjustment is normal when conditions change.

Courtesy of the University of Missouri-St. Louis

The effort to unionize faculty at the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus has generated a lively online discussion on both sides of the issue.

After success in its drives to organize part-time faculty members at Washington University, Saint Louis University, St. Louis Community College and St. Charles Community College, the Service Employees International Union is taking the move one step further and trying to enlist all members of the UMSL faculty.

An archway entrance to Saint Louis University
chuteme | Flickr | Creative Commons

Even before the National Labor Relations Board ruled this week that graduate student assistants at private universities have the right to form unions, Elizabeth Eikmann and her colleagues at Saint Louis University were talking about organizing.

Now, their campaign has begun.

Millennium Student Center at UMSL
File: Dale Singer | St. Louis Public Radio

After successful organizing campaigns with part-time faculty at Washington University, Saint Louis University and St. Louis Community College, a union is now turning its attention to the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

And a top UMSL official wants to make sure that teachers on campus know what is at stake.

An archway entrance to Saint Louis University
chuteme | Flickr | Creative Commons

Part-time instructors at Saint Louis University have joined their colleagues at three other local campuses and voted to join the Service Employees International Union.

In results of mail-in balloting announced Monday, the unionization proposal won by a vote of 76 percent, 89-28.

Washington University's Brookings Hall
Washington University | Flickr

Adjunct instructors at Washington University have approved their first contract with the school, gaining an increase in pay, more control over schedules and improved working conditions.

Michael O’Bryan, an English instructor who has been involved in negotiations since the adjuncts approved joining the Service Employees International Union more than a year ago, said the four-year pact was approved by “a hefty margin” in balloting on Wednesday and Thursday. University acceptance of the contract remains just a formality, a spokeswoman said.

Adjunct instructors at Webster University have lost their bid to join a union. However, both the adjuncts and university officials who campaigned against the union say they will keep discussing the issues that prompted the effort.

Washington University, Webster University, St. Charles Community College
St. Charles Community College, Flicker | Phil Roeder and Parick Giblin

Newly unionized adjunct instructors at Washington University prepared for their first negotiating session with the university this week, while adjuncts at Webster University get ready to decide whether they should organize as well.

And the organizing movement could soon spread to St. Charles Community College.

Washington University's Brookings Hall
Washington University

Now that adjunct instructors at Washington University have voted to join a union, they have to figure out exactly what improvements they want their new status to bring.

On Monday, the National Labor Relations Board announced the election results. The proposal to join the Service Employees International Union won by a vote of 138-111. Afterward, the union’s Adjunct Action project sent out an email headed “Victory!”

Washington University's Brookings Hall
Washington University | Flickr

Part-time faculty members at Washington University have voted to unionize in an effort to improve their salary, working conditions and stability of employment.

Ballots counted at the National Labor Relations Board Monday showed the proposal passed by a vote of 138-111, with 18 contested ballots that would not affect the outcome of the election. Just over 400 instructors at the university were eligible to vote, with a simple majority of those voting needed for passage.

Washington University's Brookings Hall
Washington University

As part-time instructors at Washington University ponder whether to join a union, two major questions have arisen about the campaign.

Washington University's Brookings Hall
Washington University | Flickr

Adjunct faculty members at Washington University will begin voting next week on whether to join a union, with the ballots to be counted after the first of the year.

Washington University's Brookings Hall
Washington University

Adjunct instructors at Washington University could be voting by the end of this year whether to form a union now that the university and the Service Employees International Union have agreed on terms for an election to proceed.

Washington University's Brookings Hall
Washington University | Flickr

Updated at 9:16 a.m. Friday with agreement between Washington U. and union, cancellation of NLRB hearing:

For many university instructors with a Ph.D. following their name, the letters might stand for Pretty Hefty Disillusionment.

They’re the ones who, after working for years to earn a doctorate in their field, sadly find that the higher education system has no job openings for them to teach students what they know.

Striking fast food workers in south St. Louis, MO.
Jess Jiang / St. Louis Public Radio

Fast food workers around the globe and in St. Louis went on strike Thursday. Workers, wearing black T-shirts that say "Show Me $15," rallied in front of a Wendy's in south St. Louis. The workers are asking for $15 an hour, about double what many workers currently receive.