IF UNION ORGANIZING MAKES THINGS BETTER, THINK WHAT A CONTRACT COULD DO

BY SUSAN DAVIS AND RICHARD LAUGESEN

LAST YEAR, CFA’S ORGANIZING CAMPAIGN REALLY BEGAN TO PAY OFF.  Because of the certification of a faculty union at UIC and the real possibility of a faculty union at UIUC, the campus administration finally began to take steps to address long-standing problems.

IN 2013 WE SAW:

— a modest public salary program (2.75% merit raise pool plus a 0.5% pool for compression, market, equity, retention), and a non-transparent, behind-the-scenes “targeted” salary program for some faculty and units. These targeted funds went largely to areas where faculty have been dissatisfied with their salaries and have supported the union campaign.

— a new compensation review committee announced by the administration Senate Executive Committee (and appointed by the usual top-down process) to study our lagging salaries and benefits. More than talk is needed — already last year our salaries lost ground to big insurance premium hikes.

—a $500  increase in Humanities and Arts Scholar Support grants.

—our notices of appointment changed back so that we can no longer be furloughed at the whim of the Administration — until the next time they want to change our terms of employment unilaterally.

— the Administration floating suggestions on how departments might choose to reorganize the titles, wages and working conditions of  non-tenure track faculty.  Non-tenure track faculty deserve more than recommendations: they deserve a binding contract that guarantees improved wages, terms of employment and working conditions.

— an announcement that the University will hire 500 new tenure-stream faculty by 2020. But when one factors in normal attrition (through retirements and resignations), total faculty numbers could still end up below what we had in 2006 —except with thousands more students to teach.

— in the wake of the pension-slashing legislation SB1, the administration will study how to improve pensions, especially for the highest-paid employees.

—some fine talk about improvements in the status of women, but no public, in-depth study of gender inequity on this campus, nor commitment to best practices toward achieving equity.

— plenty of p.r. about inclusiveness and diversity, while the number of under-represented minority undergraduates continues to fall.

DO YOU THINK THESE MODEST CHANGES WOULD HAVE HAPPENED WITHOUT THE PRESSURE OF A FACULTY UNION at Chicago and an active organizing campaign on this campus?

Some of these initiatives and proposals for more study came out of the special “task force” that met during summer 2013 for the express purpose of deflecting union organizing at UIUC. The task force presented some sensible ideas, but could make only recommendations, with no guarantees of action and no force or permanence.  The Academic Senate cannot act on compensation and benefits for faculty.

A union contract would be a legally binding, broadly negotiated agreement that both sides must uphold. A contract comes with built-in dispute resolution procedures. Despite heavy administration resistance, contract negotiations for better pay and better conditions are under way in Chicago. For the sake of our salaries, recruitment, retention and the quality of education, we could really use a contract at Urbana-Champaign.

WE ARE ALREADY MAKING A DIFFERENCE AT OUR CAMPUS.   To get involved, please contact us at campusfacultyassoc@gmail.com.  Even an hour of your time can make a big difference in getting a faculty union with collective bargaining rights.