Webster University’s adjunct instructors voted against unionizing in a 268 to 212 decision on May 11.
A portion of Webster’s adjunct began pushing to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) after Washington University’s adjuncts voted to unionize in January. Webster adjuncts officially filed on March 28.
As members of SEIU Webster’s adjuncts would have been able to collectively bargain, a process that enables groups of employees to negotiate wages with their employers.
Webster Director of Public Relations Patrick Giblin said the university hopes to work with adjuncts to find a solution to their concerns in the coming weeks.
“In the days and weeks ahead, we intend to continue this constructive dialogue with our Adjunct Faculty,” the release said.
In January, Provost Julian Schuster said the university was firmly opposed to unionization in an email sent to adjuncts. He said unionization would have no benefit becauses adjuncts are treated as valuable members of Webster.
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.
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.
In a January issue of The Journal, Webster adjunct professor John Maret said he believes many adjuncts would vote against unionization in fear of retaliation from the university, He said any adjuncts who vote against unionization would be voting against their best interest.
”You are just voting against yourself,” Maret said. “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 is one of the many adjuncts who fought for unionization at Webster as a result of SEIU’s Adjunct Action, a movement working towards better working conditions for adjunct instructors nationwide.
Faculty Senate member Terri Reilly said Webster is not the sort of university that would punish adjuncts for wanting to unionize. Reilly is the first and only adjunct member of the Faculty Senate.
“I know 100 percent that no department chair would (fire an adjunct) for being a part of the union process,” Reilly said in a January issue of The Journal. “That’s not what this university is about…but adjuncts are fearful for their jobs.”
While unionization for adjuncts was voted down, a smaller vote involving part-time instructors is still in limbo as a result of challenged votes.