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Abstract

Minimum-wage labor is no longer confined to sectors once associated with low-skill occupations. In college classrooms across the United States, we are witness to the rise of a “gig-economy” among faculty positions where highly skilled work is being completed by part-time workers known commonly as adjuncts. Despite performing highly-skilled work, adjuncts are compensated at the levels of low-skilled workers. Lack of access to benefits, capricious contract agreements, and a general sense of feeling dispensable are common themes to the adjunct experience. The aim of this paper is to address the concerns of adjuncts and suggest some workable solutions to their contingent situation. As a resident of the Midwest and member of the adjunct labor movement in this part of the country, my primary focus for discussion will be the Saint Louis region. I argue that the most effective way for adjuncts to address their precarious labor arrangements is to tap into the power of organized labor. Universities and colleges in the Saint Louis area have seen a dramatic surge in adjunct activism that has led to successful unionizing campaigns and, more significantly, improved working conditions for adjuncts through the bargaining process. More personally, I will share from my experience as an adjunct who taught for seven years at Saint LouisUniversity and was a member of the University’s first adjunct union. In conclusion, this paper’s goal is to inform the wider public about the plight of adjuncts as well as suggest a workable solution for individuals caught up in the “adjunct-labor cycle.”

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