Union backs adjuncts

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Union backs adjuncts

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The adjunct faculty at Saint Louis University has moved one step closer to unionization.

According to Hillary Birdsong, an adjunct instructor and one of the lead organizers of the movement, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has backed the adjuncts. The SEIU have campaigned for other adjunct groups at universities across the country. The group was essential in the unionization of the adjuncts at Washington University in January 2015.

“Unionizing would give us a say in matters concerning our contracts and compensation,” Birdsong said in an email to adjunct supporters.

The adjuncts have worked steadily over the past year to receive better wages and benefits. Adjuncts at SLU now start out making $3,000 per course, and those who have been working with the university for at least three consecutive years receive a bump in compensation—the amount of which increases with the amount of time an adjunct has spent working at the university.

However, the moves the administration has made while trying to meet the adjuncts’ needs have not been quite enough, according to Birdsong.

“Many of us have to work at multiple jobs to make ends meet.  Some of us live paycheck to paycheck and worry about how to pay rent or utility bills.  We have no way of knowing if we will even be teaching next semester,” Birdsong said.

Birdsong has often stated that since her job at SLU is never certain, it does not allow her to focus completely on her students.

“We teach the same classes that tenured professors teach, we counsel students about personal issues during our office hours, and we write letters of recommendation for them as they make their way into the world.  Without us, the student experience would not be as rich as it is, and yet the wages we receive for our labor are not enough to live on,” Birdsong said.

As previously reported in The University News, the adjuncts expect that they should be able to form a union by the end of the spring semester.

Michael Lewis, the Associate Vice President for Faculty Development, commented in a previous interview that the university has not yet taken a stance on the adjunct’s plans to form a union.