CHICAGO — Faculty at the University of Illinois-Chicago are writing the constitution for their new union, UIC United Faculty, even as the university challenges it.
A union organizing committee started in fall 2009. With 1,000 prospective members, an organizer says that it could be fully operational no later than Nov. 1, representing faculty on grievances and issues such as pensions.
Professor Darold Barnum, who teaches courses on labor in addition to his organizer duties, said a neutral administrative law judge ruled that an appropriate faculty union bargaining unit for UIC includes both tenure-system and nontenure-track faculty.
The university contests that. Mark Rosati, the campus' spokesman, said the main sticking point is about combining tenured and nontenured faculty.
In April, United Faculty delivered signed cards indicating union membership from a majority of UIC faculty, Barnum said.
In July, Jerry L. Bauman, interim vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost, filed exceptions with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.
Bauman told faculty:
"What we oppose is combining the two, not only because state law is clear that a faculty union at UIC should consist only of tenure-system faculty (excluding medicine, dentistry and pharmacy), but because it is not conducive to the productive operations and stable bargaining environment of the campus."
Barnum wrote UI President Michael Hogan that an appeal of the judge's ruling sends a message that the president believes "that nontenure track faculty are an inferior class that must be segregated into a separate unit," and is opposed to the wishes of faculty.
Hogan denied there was any such feeling that nontenured members are lesser teachers, in a letter back to union organizers July 13.
"I've never stated that our contingent faculty are inferior and to the contrary, I value them deeply and the contributions they make to us. Indeed, if they'd like to form a collective bargaining unit, as we've stated repeatedly, we're quite willing to work with them," Hogan wrote.
Barnum said the union has a transitional executive committee, which was elected by the organizing committee members.
"They are drawing up a constitution which will identify the ways in which we'll elected a permanent leadership," Barnum said.
Barnum said a single bargaining unit will "provide superior organizational efficiency and effectiveness, better protect academic freedom and other critical norms for all faculty and avoid the segregating faculty into different legal categories."