I believe that unionization can help faculty address numerous problems in higher education, but the most pressing of these problems is the increasing reliance on adjunct ...Micheal Smith, Adjunct Instructor, English What they're saying
Sign Our Petition
I stand in support of UMSL Faculty. I urge administration to do the right thing, and create a process which allows them to form a union. This is their legal right, and administration should work in good faith to negotiate a fair contract that reflects the value of teaching at UMSL.
Value Students. Value Faculty.
SEIU Local 1 has been working with college and university professors throughout the Midwest to give them a voice on the job; address the low compensation for their work; and to ensure greater benefits and job security. Over the past year, faculty at St. Louis Community College, St. Charles Community College, and Saint Louis University and Washington University have voted overwhelmingly to join SEIU Local 1, and others around the Midwest are also working to organize.
Among the issues raised by these faculty members preceding negotiations are the low wages, lack of benefits and unpredictable scheduling. These issues have been brought to light through the organizing efforts among faculty members around the country, and have earned faculty the nickname of the “working class” of the higher education system.
I am not just one voice; I am part of a community of scholars, teachers, parents, and faculty of color who support UMSL United!”Adriano Udani, Assistant Professor of Political Science What they're saying
By supporting our union, I am standing for the rights of all professors to earn fair wages and better access to benefits. When an academic ...Jenni Nolan, Assistant Teaching Professor, Anthropology and Archaeology What they're saying
As social workers and faculty members in the school of social work, we deeply believe in equity and social justice. By supporting our union, we ...Lori Curtis, Linda Glover, Courtney McDermott, School of Social Work What they're saying
I support our union because there is too much inequity across higher education. When faculty are concerned about their salaries, benefits, and whether or not ...Lauren Obermark, Assistant Professor, English What they're saying
Who are the members of SEIU Local 1 Faculty Forward?
SEIU represents 75,000 members in public and private higher education in the United States—40,000 are college and university faculty. There are nearly 40 schools where faculty have formed unions with SEIU in the past three years — 1,500 faculty members at Washington University, St. Louis Community College, St. Charles Community College and Saint Louis University have joined faculty at DePaul University, University of Minnesota, the University of Rochester, Loyola University Chicago, Tufts, Georgetown, and others to address a national crisis in higher education that has led to increased concern over issues like the marginalization of teaching, academic isolation and job stability that affects students.
These faculty members have created a movement to address this crisis and the declining standards that endanger the profession. Today, sixty-seven percent of all employees with faculty status at institutions of higher education in the United States are professors who work outside the tenure system, hired on a class-by-class or semester-to-semester basis, often with low pay and no benefits.
Why should I form a union?
Forming a union changes the basic power relationship at work. Without a union, employers have almost all the rights. They can change our pay and working conditions at any time as long as they do not violate certain laws, like the minimum wage. Any benefits we receive are at the discretion of our employer.
Faculty members, like you, want to improve working conditions and make sure teaching and scholarship are a priority at their universities and in their lives. With a union, faculty have a stronger, more unified voice for their profession. While many non-tenure-track faculty across the country love teaching at their university, issues around job security, wage stagnation, and healthcare can be difficult to address with our administration directly. Coming together to create more equitable and predictable employment conditions is the ultimate goal of a faculty union, and this new stability inevitably enhances the quality of students’ educational experiences. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.
Once we form a union, our employer cannot make changes in our working conditions unless they are negotiated with us as union members. Any benefits or working conditions covered by our contract are protected by law. When we negotiate our contract, we decide together as co-workers what kinds of things could be improved on our campus and make proposals to our employer. The administration is legally obligated to negotiate over most proposals that affect the quality of our work life. A union gives us strength in numbers to improve our pay, benefits, and working conditions.
How will a union at UMSL work?
Having a union empowers people to make positive changes where they work. Having a union does not guarantee any particular improvement or benefit, but a union is the tool that working people, like college and university faculty, use to make improvements where they work. Through the power of collective bargaining, instructors across the country have won a voice at the table and have won the right to negotiate with their college and university administrations.
What have others achieved by forming a union?
Across the country, faculty have negotiated contracts that have won: pay increases, the establishment or expansion of professional development funds, “just cause” clauses protecting members from arbitrary discipline or discharge, and a defined rate of compensation in the event of course cancellation, among other improvements. What is achieved in bargaining will reflect the priorities and issues specific to faculty at an individual school. Most importantly, forming a union will allows faculty to have a voice in determining their working conditions.
So say we form a union. Who will be in charge?
This will be our union. Members will elect officers, and approval of contracts will be decided by a majority vote, but all members can help shape a union through bargaining surveys, serving on committees, and electing officers. All of the proposals for a contract come from faculty. And during the process of achieving a contract with the school, faculty decide when the proposed contract is good enough to be ratified by a majority vote. Like all unions, an SEIU Local 1 at UMSL Local will be made up of and run by its members. We select our own committee for contract negotiations and all of us vote to approve our contract. After we negotiate our contract, we select our own stewards to help make sure our employer honors our contract. The officers of our Local are also elected by the membership. Members discuss the issues that are important to our union at regular membership meetings.
“The union” is not made up of outsiders. We faculty are all the union together, as co-workers. Union staff assist members in negotiating contracts, filing grievances, training stewards, and helping make workplaces better.
Do I have a legal right to form a union?
Yes. This is a well-established right, and, for employees of UMSL and other Missouri government subdivisions, protected by both the United States and Missouri Constitutions. If anyone is in any way discriminated against for forming a union, SEIU Local 1 will take appropriate legal action to enforce your right to join a union.
How much are union dues? What are they for?
The dues rate is set by a membership vote. They are 2.5% of your pay, and you do not pay any dues until you have negotiated and ratified a contract with your employer. It takes money to run an organization, like a church, a club, or a union. Union dues pay for contract negotiation expenses, office and support services, legal services, union newsletters and other communications, training for stewards and members, and organizing.
How much is the initiation fee?
There is no initiation fee for SEIU Local 1 members.
Will everyone have to join?
No one can be forced to join our union. All non-management, non-confidential, non-elected employees have the choice to become union members. However, unions are legally obligated to represent everyone within the bargaining unit, whether or not they are union members. Non-members are covered by the contract, may file grievances, are represented by the union, and are even represented by a union attorney in arbitration hearings.
What will forming a union guarantee?
Forming a union can only guarantee one thing: when workers stick together we have more bargaining power than we do as scattered individuals. After we have voted to form a union, we — with the assistance of union staff — will negotiate a contract. The University must negotiate in good faith with us as unionized workers about wages, benefits and working conditions. Missouri is not a “meet and confer” state as claimed by the administration of the University. The Missouri Supreme Court has declared that employers like the University must bargain collectively in good faith for the purpose of reaching an agreement. The contract we negotiate will be legally binding on the University. Because we all decide together what we want in the contract, there are no guarantees about exactly what those terms will be. However, for guidance we can see what other SEIU Local members have negotiated by viewing or downloading existing union contracts. Acting as a union, workers can make sure that the administration follows the contract.
What is a grievance procedure?
A grievance procedure is a method for solving employee complaints. Without a union contract, we can take our complaints to management, but management has the final say on whether to make improvements or correct a problem. With a union contract, each of us has the help of a union steward (a co-worker we select, who receives extra training from SEIU in filing grievances and enforcing our contract), to help us file a grievance. If your employer refuses to settle the complaint, the grievance will be heard by a neutral third-party arbitrator chosen by mutual agreement between our union and our employer. The employer and the union are legally bound to abide by the arbitrator’s decision.
If we form a union, does it mean that we can’t deal directly with our supervisor? What about the faculty senate? What does “exclusive” mean on the union card?
In a union setting, most problems are resolved directly between workers and their supervisors. The contract negotiated can leave in place all current forms of faculty decision-making, including the faculty senate. That is up to us. “Exclusive representative” refers to the fact that there can really only be one union representing the faculty at one time, and it is the University’s legal obligation to recognize that union as representing all faculty. A difference will be that if any employment problem is not being adequately addressed by the administration a union steward is available to help. Of course only if a member requests that help because he/she has been unsatisfied with attempts to work something out directly with the administration. In a non-union workplace, we can talk all we want with management — but management has the last word, take it or leave it.
When we are protected by a union contract, we can still talk all we want with management, but we aren’t completely powerless any more to push back on their decisions. Being part of a union gives us the right to effectively appeal unfair decisions and force our employer to correct unfair actions.
If we form a union, will we have to go on strike?
Under Missouri law employees of the University are prohibited from striking. There is a wide variety of protected union activity that UMSL employees have the right to exercise. Demonstrating your power to administration is important to building a strong union, but the decision about what to fight for and how hard to fight is always up to you, the union members.