CHICAGO — Faculty at the University of Illinois' Chicago campus are preparing for a strike next week.
The faculty union, 18 months into negotiations with the university, filed its notice to strike last week and has set Tuesday, Feb. 18 and Wednesday, Feb. 19 as walk-out days. Professors and lecturers in recent days have been notifying students about canceled classes on those days.
"We tried to avoid this. We didn't want to do this, but negotiations just aren't moving fast enough," said UI-Chicago Professor and UIC United Faculty Union President Joe Persky. "We want to make a statement," he said.
Picketing is planned for all over the campus, on its east and west sides, and the Jane Addams-Hull House Museum will host a teach-in by showing labor films, Perksy said.
The union represents about 1,100 tenure-system and non-tenure track faculty on the Chicago campus.
About 95 percent of those who voted in December approved the strike authorization.
UIC faculty organized in 2011 and fought with the university administration over the union's original plan to include tenure track and non-tenure track faculty in one bargaining unit. The union ended up establishing two bargaining units and has been negotiating two contracts. Negotiations have been going on for 18 months and a federal mediator was brought in in December.
A bargaining session is scheduled for Friday.
"We would very much like to resolve this," Persky said.
In a recent statement, UI-Chicago administration said a "work stoppage or strike is not in the best interest of the faculty, the university, or our students; however, we acknowledge the faculty's right to strike under Illinois labor law."
"The university values its faculty and has offered a fair contract to each of its collective bargaining units. We will continue to bargain in good faith, now with the help of a federal mediator, until a settlement is reached," according to the statement.
Some progress has been made, Persky said, but "it's been at still a slow pace rather than just getting this done with. ... I don't think we're unreasonable."
The outstanding issues have to do with compensation, especially for some of the lecturers. New full-time lecturers in some subjects, such as English, may teach six classes a year and earn $30,000, he said.
The union also has been asking for multiyear contracts, which would provide some job security to lecturers and similar employees.
A third area of concern is the need to address salary "compression" among tenure-track professors, where some long-time professors' salaries have not kept up with market rates, he said.