July 21, 2017

Webster paid $17,000 to consulting firm specialized in defeating unionization

In the spring of 2015, Webster’s adjunct professors filed to vote on unionization, a vote that would ultimately fail in a 268 to 212 decision May 11, 2015.

During that time, Webster hired Greer Consulting, Inc., a public relations firm that works in labor relations and diversity training. Greer Consulting states on its website that the firm “defeats union organizing tactics.”

“What we do plain and simple is win National Labor Relations Board  (NLRB)union elections.  The NLRB says unions win 64 percent of NLRB elections, however our win rate is nearly 95 percent of all NLRB petitions filed when we are hired,” Greer’s Labor webpage reads (www.greerconsultinginc.com.)

According to a university statement, Greer Consulting, Incs’ founder Jason Greer met with adjunct faculty nearly a dozen times during his time at Webster to discuss the pros and cons of unionization.

A portion of Webster’s adjuncts began pushing to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) after Washington University’s adjuncts voted to unionize in January 2015. Webster adjuncts officially filed for unionization March 28, 2015.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, adjunct professors are often used as a cheap, flexible alternative to hiring full-time faculty. Their wages are lower and they receive less benefits than the average employee. Similar to a student taking 15 to 18 credit hours a semester, an adjunct teaches several courses a semester and often teach at multiple institutions.

Adjunct Professor Terri Reilly helps a student in one of her classes. She was elected as Faculty Senate’s first adjunct member in 2014.

In January 2015, Webster Provost Julian Schuster said the university was firmly opposed to unionization in an email sent to adjuncts. He said unionization would have no benefit because adjuncts are treated as valuable members of Webster’s community.

“While we [the administration] respect whatever opinions and actions our adjunct faculty members take in this important matter, we also thought it was important to make clear the university’s stance on this issue,” Schuster said in an email on Jan. 23, 2015.

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Adjunct Project reported the average Webster adjunct makes about $1,870-$5,000 per three credit hours.Webster’s adjunct pay is based on years of experience.

Webster’s adjuncts moved to unionize in hope of gaining collective bargaining, which would have allowed negotiation on wages, hours and working conditions. In early 2015, adjunct professor Jeffrey Maret told The Journal he believed adjuncts who voted against the unionization would be voting against themselves.

“Why wouldn’t you want to be represented? Why wouldn’t you want to sit down and negotiate with someone rather than them just dictate the terms to you?” Maret said.

According to Greer Consulting’s proposal to Webster, Jason Greer would visit Webster to facilitate conversations with adjunct employees.  However, he would not serve as a “registered persuader” or try to campaign or persuade during the forums. He also would act as an onsite resource for faculty and staff.

On its labor consulting page, Greer Consulting details registered persuaders and labor attorneys as part of their package. According to the site, the registered persuaders are brought in to meet with employees to discuss the pros and cons of unionization.

According to the Form LM-10 Employer Report, Webster was billed $17,000 by Greer during 2014 and 2015.

When contacted by The Journal, Jason Greer said the university could speak for his time working as a consultant for Webster. The Journal inquired to the specifics of Greer’s time working with adjuncts and whether he was contracted to prevent unionization. Director of Public Relations Patrick Giblin provided The Journal with a statement from the university.

“Jason Greer is a professional labor relations advisor who was hired to help facilitate discussions with adjunct faculty about the pros and cons of the unionization efforts. He hosted nearly a dozen such discussions on campus last year. He is no longer contracted by the university,” the statement read.

According to Greer Consulting’s website, Jason Greer served as a Board Agent with the National Labor Relations Board.  It also noted the company assisted large and small businesses in several industries to overcome internal employee relation struggles.

In an article published in 2012 by The Morning Call, a newspaper in Pennsylvania, it was reported Jason Greer consulted for Pratt Corrugated Logistics. Eleven truck drivers, who were laid off by Pratt, reported to The Morning Call that Jason Greer questioned them days before they were laid off.  According to the article, Greer refused to give his identity to the drivers when asked multiple times.

Only after they were laid off did they discover Greer’s true identity. The drivers told The Morning Call Greer questioned the drivers in small groups, asking how they felt about working conditions and problems they thought should be addressed.  Those truckers were laid off days after meeting with Greer.

Editor’s Note: The Journal printed Jeffrey Maret’s name as John Maret in the original article. The story has been corrected. The Journal apologizes for the error. 

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