fight for fifteen

Two days ago I participated in my local ““fight for fifteen” (a union effort asking $15.00 an hour for various groups of hourly wage earners, and $15k per course for adjuncts who do most of the teaching in today’s colleges and universities). By all accounts the event must have been pretty effective around the world. Our event in St. Louis began in a variety of locations and culminated in a large rally at Washington University (Washu) followed by a march to the Delmar Loop that was joined by groups from Tennessee and Arkansas.

Here I am with Rev. Teresa Danieley, the Rector of my church, and Brendan Lambert, a co-parishioner, as we assembled around 2:00 at the Clock Tower at Saint Louis University (SLU) before walking to the president’s office to deliver a petition with over 600 signatures asking the university to recognize our union effort and allow organizing to go forward without interference.


Here are some forty of us in an anteroom at the executive suite in Du Bourg Hall with a placard that showed 500 of the names affixed to the petition.


And here’s a shot of the sheaf of pages containing all 601 signatures we delivered. Note how many on this page are students.


My involvement with this movement goes back over a year to a meeting I attended at the Missouri History Museum, sponsored by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), when I heard the first serious discussions with which I have had any personal contact about a nationwide effort to organize adjunct faculty in colleges and universities. That meeting and one other I attended, in Chicago last October, focused on organizing adjunct faculty in the Catholic colleges and universities. I’m going to write another blog post about moral and political issues at stake in this effort for higher education and particularly for Catholic higher education. Today I want do my best to display yesterday’s events and point with pride.

The effort to collect signatures at SLU contiues and is of course part of a larger effort that we hope will eventuate in the formation of an SEIU local at SLU. Parallel organizing efforts are underway at a number of St. Louis colleges and universities. Washu adjuncts have formed a union and are presently negotiating with the Washu administration over slaries, benefits and working conditions. Adjuncts at Webster University are about to vote whether to organize. The effort to hold a union election at Saint Louis Community College has presently been blocked by the administration in Jefferson City, but it is hoped that an election can be held this summer.

Here are some photos I took on the way from the clock tower to Du Bourg: A nicely chalked wall in front of the Center for Global Citizenship,


and some of us passing underneath the archway at the main Grand Bloulevard crossing just adjacent to Du Bourg.


After we delivered the SLU petition our SLU group dispersed for various other activities and eventual transportation to Washu. Kathleen joined me after her class at about 3:00. We drove out to University City, and parked in a large grocery store parking lot, where we got T shirts, hats, and a ride to Brookings Hall at Washu. Here’s Kathleen at Seafood City with a small group of rally participants.


And here she is again just as we arrived at Washu. The place looks pretty empty so far, but this is early.


The Washu rally had been scheduled to begin at 4:15 (get it?), but we didn’t start on time because many groups (I suspect the groups from Tenessee and Arkansas among them) were caught in the late afternoon traffic snarl around Forest Park and arrived late. The schedule didn’t matter though, because the crowd at Washu was plenty big and made a beautiful noise (The Post-Dispatch estimates there were around 300 assembled as the rally culminated on the steps of Brookings Hall.

Here are a few photos I shot before the rally began.

Milling around:




Kathleen with poster:


Making impromptu posters:


Some of Washu’s finest, coming through:


Media observed:





“What do we want? FIFTEEN! When do we want it? NOW!”


After this things moved pretty fast as some large groups of folks arrived. This one was the most dramatic. It seemed they streamed all the way back to Forest Park, which would be in the far background of some of these photos if you could see through the trees.




Here’s another group arriving. I’m at the top of the stairs, looking down.


And here’s a shot of the thick of the crowd.


There was cheerleading and speechifying. Here are a few of the performers.









Here’s the day’s best T-shirt slogan.


And at the end of it all, T. Eliot’s grandfather, the founder of Washu. The monument sits just under the arch that formed the background of the rally. I couldn’t resist ending with it.


We left after the rally, tired and hungry. I hope somebody else got some photos of the do on the loop. More later about why I’m in this.