UI to fight Uni teachers' unionization attempt
URBANA — The University of Illinois will fight an attempt to unionize teachers at University High School, arguing they make up only a fraction of the non-tenure-track faculty at the Urbana campus.
A majority of Uni's teachers submitted a petition with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board in May, seeking to form a union. The Uni Faculty Organization is affiliated with the Illinois Education Association.
Organizers were hoping the university would accept the union's certification, but a spokeswoman said this week the UI will oppose the effort to organize any "sub-group" of faculty.
"We recognize the right of employees to organize and seek certification of union representation. However, the union's petition to represent only faculty at University Laboratory High school is flawed, because the union is asking the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) to certify a bargaining unit consisting of only a small fractional portion of a much larger group of non-tenure track faculty at the Urbana campus," UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler said in an email.
John Brosnan, spokesman for the labor board, said the UI's objection means the matter will go to a hearing before an administrative law judge.
The two sides disagree on how the employees should be categorized, and the hearing officer will have to resolve that, he said.
The state developed rules years ago to divide university employees into bargaining units based on their work, and one includes all non-tenure-track faculty, he said. The union contends the Uni employees are regular teachers, rather than non-tenure-track faculty.
"The union thinks they belong to a different group than the employer does," Brosnan said.
Brosnan said the UI and Illinois Education Association will work together to set a date for a hearing to settle that and other disputes related to the petition. The UI's Kaler expects that to be in early August.
Union representatives could not be reached for comment this week.
The union's petition seeks to cover "all full time and regularly employed part time teaching associates" at the UI lab school.
The state requires at least 30 percent of the employees in a bargaining unit to request union membership in order to be certified.
Uni's union organizers held three informational meetings last fall and talked individually with every teacher in the spring. Carol Lombardi, who teaches journalism at Uni, said a majority of the school's 34 full- and part-time faculty members signed cards in order to file the union petition.
Faculty members said they love working at Uni but want to preserve the positive aspects of their jobs and would like a bigger voice in decisions at the school, as teachers at other unionized schools have. They said a union would give the school a protocol for handling problems that may crop up, something that's lacking now.
Uni High was established in 1921 and is located on the UI campus. It's a publicly funded school with competitive enrollment and has about 300 students.