Part-time instructors at St. Louis Community College voted overwhelmingly to form a union this weekend with 188 ballots cast for unionizing and 15 ballots cast against.
The vote is considered unofficial until certified by St. Louis Community College’s Board of Trustees.
Roughly 550 faculty members were eligible to vote.
One of them was Maryanne Angliongto, an adjunct professor teaching astronomy at the community college for the last eight years. She said unionization will be the conduit adjuncts need to communicate with the school’s administration.
“This vote is important because adjuncts aren’t here all the time,” she said. “We work on different campuses, so if an individual instructor thinks of something that can improve the educational experience for our students, it’s harder to get an audience with the decision makers.”
STLCC Chancellor Jeff Pittman said the same. In an interview before the vote, he said unionizing will better facilitate communication.
Pittman’s stance is a departure from other campus leaders in the area who have declined to publicly share their opinions on the topic of adjuncts unionizing.
“I believe it’s in the best interest of our students (for adjuncts to form a union),” Pittman said. “I think it’s a positive anytime you can better work with a group and share ideas and insights.”
This weekend’s vote marks the second victory in the metro area for the Service Employees International Union, which is pushing nationwide to represent adjunct faculty.
The main goal is for higher pay and more job security for workers, many of whom don’t know where they’ll be working or how many classes they will be teaching from semester to semester.
The union scored a big victory last October when it negotiated a 22 percent pay raise for adjunct faculty at Tufts University in Massachusetts.
SEIU Local 1, specifically, has targeted the St. Louis area as a region particularly ripe for unionization.
In January, adjuncts at Washington University voted to form a union. In May, adjuncts at Webster University voted against forming a union.
And organizing activity has been ramping up at St. Louis University, where adjuncts held an information session on campus Friday to help garner support from students. In September, SLU adjuncts fasted during business hours to help raise awareness of the issues adjuncts face.
Adjunct faculty are part-time instructors who teach classes when full-time faculty are already overloaded with heavy course loads. They also fill in when teaching departments are short-staffed.
Of an estimated 4,000 adjuncts working in the St. Louis area, industry watchers say it is common for adjuncts to make about $20,000 a year or less, even among those teaching full course loads. In order to reach that $20,000 mark, a number of adjuncts teach at different schools, commuting between multiple campuses to make ends meet.
Adjunct professors have become increasingly popular among college administrators who can hire someone with an advanced degree to teach students at a minimal cost to the school.