SEIU Leads Push to Unionize St. Louis, Mo. Adjunct Faculty
By Koran Addo
Nine months out of the year, Andrew Nelson works about 50 hours a week, driving his 1995 Mazda on either 50- or 100-mile round trips every weekday to his college teaching gigs at Lindenwood University in St. Charles and East Central College in Union.
He gets paid just $22,000 a year combined — without the benefit of a retirement package or health care coverage.
Nelson is one of an estimated 4,000 adjunct faculty working in the St. Louis area. All together, they make up the working class of the academic community. They are the low-wage earners who teach classes when full-time faculty are already overloaded with heavy course loads, and they fill in when teaching departments are short-staffed.
For the past few years, a number of shadow campaigns to unionize adjunct faculty have bubbled up at area colleges in the hopes of giving those workers job security, a voice in campus decision-making and to negotiate for benefits and better pay.
While a number of those campaigns have fizzled out before they could gain traction, college leaders have been reluctant to speak about the issue publicly. Privately, however, they acknowledge that it’s a growing movement nationally.
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