By the Campus Faculty Association Organizing Committee

The faculty at the University of Illinois, Chicago have ratified their historic first union contracts. Here at UIUC, the campus debate about a faculty union has involved a lot of speculation about what the effects of unionizing would be. Now fact can replace speculation, and we can look at what tenure-track (TT) and non-tenure-track (NTT) faculty have achieved. Some of the more dire predictions made by those who oppose a union can be measured against the results.

Will the campus be divided and antagonistic?   The UIC faculty overwhelmingly ratified their first contracts.  The  contracts specify regular consultation, at minimum once a semester, between representatives of TT and NTT faculty and the administration. The Chancellor and Provost will meet at least annually with union representatives. This on-going communication on important matters will lead to the quick resolution of any potential conflicts. The contracts feature no-strike clauses. Nothing in the contract diminishes or replaces the role of the Academic Senate.

Will union dues be exorbitant? The union at UIC has instituted a sliding scale of dues based on salary, ranging from .5% for those earning less than $50,000, largely NTT colleagues, to 1% for those earning more. Faculty members set and approved these dues, which will be offset by salary improvements.

Did unionization result in negligible salary increases? No. Increases are especially significant for NTT faculty – the minimum salary has been raised 25%, and minimum 10% raises are guaranteed upon promotion. Paths to promotion and multi-year contracts will be in place within the year. But TT faculty also received substantial raises, including back pay for raises withheld over the past two years. All faculty across the campus are receiving a one-time payment for research and professional support – again, especially important for NTT colleagues. In addition to raises, merit, compression and retention pools have been established for both NTT and TT units. These are big improvements for UIC faculty. UIUC is the flagship of the system, and a union here would work for improvements scaled to this campus.

Will unionization level salaries and undercut excellence by preventing counter-offers? No. Under unionization, UIC unit heads remain free to award merit increases and to make counter-offers. The contract includes no salary-leveling or caps, and nothing stops an individual faculty member from seeking an adjustment.

In addition, the UIC contract guarantees office space to NTT colleagues so they can meet with their students. It guarantees equipment updates for all faculty. It mandates union representation on committees reporting on diversity, and it strengthens access to grievance procedures and due-process for all. We invite you to investigate the new UIC contracts at:

http://uicunitedfaculty.org/?attachment_id=314 (Tenure-system)

http://uicunitedfaculty.org/?attachment_id=317 (Non-tenure system)

and NTT addendum: http://uicunitedfaculty.org/?attachment_id=321

A faculty union can’t solve all the problems that currently beset higher education, but the UIC contracts show that a united faculty can improve a great institution by improving the working conditions of the people—NTT and TT faculty—who make it great. We can take this important step at UIUC by organizing for collective bargaining.

If you have not affirmed your support for collective bargaining, please send us a message at campusfacultyassoc@gmail.com.

Like us on Facebook at Campus Faculty Association and follow us on twitter @campusfac.

Published by Susan Davis

I teach in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois.

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