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Adjuncts at St. Charles Community College approve union membership

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

Adjunct instructors at St. Charles Community College have joined the growing campus unionization movement.

By a vote of 108-61, the part-time instructors approved a proposal Thursday to join Service Employees International Union Local 1. The union also represents adjuncts at Washington University and St. Louis Community College.

School administrators had remained neutral in the campaign leading up to this week’s balloting, which was overseen by the League of Women Voters. In a statement Friday, Donna Davis, vice president for human resources at the school, said in reaction to the vote:

"The college’s administration is committed to a continued productive relationship that positively impacts our campus and the students we serve.”

Part-time instructors at colleges and universities nationwide have been voting to unionize to secure better wages and benefits as well as more control over their working schedules. Many adjuncts complain they do not know from one semester to the next whether they will be teaching at all, and they have to cobble together courses at two or more campuses to make ends meet.

But not all efforts at unionizing have been successful. Last year, a vote by adjuncts at Webster University failed in the face of strong opposition by the school’s administration. It has worked since then to discuss issues such as improved working conditions for part-time instructors that had been part of the union campaign.

At Washington University, contract talks have been held with the unionized adjuncts for nearly a year. Negotiators say agreement has been reached on workplace issues but that financial terms are still under discussion.

Higher education isn’t the only place where teachers are talking about unionizing. Faculty members at the Grand Center Arts Academy became the first teachers at a St. Louis charter school to join a union when they approved a proposal in December to affiliate with the St. Louis Teachers Union.

Follow Dale on Twitter: @dalesinger

Dale Singer began his career in professional journalism in 1969 by talking his way into a summer vacation replacement job at the now-defunct United Press International bureau in St. Louis; he later joined UPI full-time in 1972. Eight years later, he moved to the Post-Dispatch, where for the next 28-plus years he was a business reporter and editor, a Metro reporter specializing in education, assistant editor of the Editorial Page for 10 years and finally news editor of the newspaper's website. In September of 2008, he joined the staff of the Beacon, where he reported primarily on education. In addition to practicing journalism, Dale has been an adjunct professor at University College at Washington U. He and his wife live in west St. Louis County with their spoiled Bichon, Teddy. They have two adult daughters, who have followed them into the word business as a communications manager and a website editor, and three grandchildren. Dale reported for St. Louis Public Radio from 2013 to 2016.