Updated: State certifies UI-Springfield faculty union

Updated: State certifies UI-Springfield faculty union

SPRINGFIELD — A second University of Illinois campus has formed a union for tenure-system faculty, even as organizing efforts continue at the Urbana-Champaign campus.

The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board has certified the faculty union at the UI Springfield, which has 137 members and is affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, union leaders said.

"This win is part of a trend in higher education where faculties are pushing back against college administrators turning university teaching into an unstable, temporary job," a statement from the union said. "Stability for educators means higher retention rates and more experience in the classroom."

The union's goals are listed as negotiating fair wages and benefits, sharing governance with the administration, and freedom from retaliation when advocating for the rights of students.

The UI's Chicago campus signed its first faculty union contract in May 2014, and the Campus Faculty Association is also pushing for a union to represent tenured and tenure-track faculty at Urbana.

About 475 non-tenure-track faculty at Urbana won recognition for their union in July. The lecturers, instructors and other "specialized faculty," as the campus refers to non-tenure-track facutly, represent about 20 percent of the total faculty at Urbana, according to the Campus Faculty Association Local 6546.

The university appealed that union's certification, claiming the members should be with the University Laboratory High School teachers union. But a state appellate court ruled in January that the two groups could be recognized as separate unions. The university is preparing an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court, according to UI spokesman Jan Dennis.

A separate court case is pending over raises the UI withheld from many of the union's members last summer, when other UI employees received pay increases under the campus wage program. The university argued they should be negotiated with the new union. The state labor board disagreed, and the case is now in court, said Dorothee Schneider, a history lecturer and member of Local 6546.

The union began negotiations with the UI in October and the two sides have met monthly, she said. The union isn't just bargaining about salaries; it's concerned with job security, professional development and recognition, Schneider said.

"We are very cognizant of the current political climate," she said. "We're not blind to this. We are proposing changes and proposing a contract that takes into account the difficult fiscal situation of the state. We're not irresponsible, we're not the kind of people Gov. Rauner likes to present us as."

The Springfield union submitted authorization cards in December signed by 71 of the eligible tenured and tenure-track faculty in the bargaining unit.

The next step will be to negotiate a contract with the university. The UI issued a statement Tuesday saying it will bargain with the faculty union as it does with other labor unions that already have contracts with the Springfield campus.

"We respect the fact that faculty members have a right to decide whether or not to be represented by a labor union. The union will have the power to act and speak for faculty in required group-level negotiations on wages, hours, and conditions of work," the statement said.

One faculty member called the union "a win for the faculty, but also a win for the students."

"Studies have shown that public universities with faculty unions have lower tuition rates, less bureaucratic bloat, and higher graduation rates. UIS educators believe that sharing governance with university administration will allow us to better advocate both for ourselves and on behalf of our students," Donna Bussell, professor of English and linguistics, said in a release.

Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, called it a "major victory" for the UI community.

"This will be a new era for UIS — one that includes shared governance between faculty and administration. Their successful work will ensure that UIS remains the high-quality institution that attracts and retains top tier faculty for its students."

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Girn Blanston wrote on February 17, 2015 at 12:02 pm

"A second University of Illinois campus has formed a union for tenured faculty"

 

A class of employee who can't be fired (unless they do something completely outrageous), and have jobs for life, formed a union?

That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of.  

David Stevens wrote on February 17, 2015 at 2:02 pm

My guess is that the union is for tenure-track faculty, not just tenured faculty, but even if it were just for tenured faculty a union is not a bad idea.  Such things as salaries, promotions, raises, benefits, disciplinary hearings, workloads, sabbaticals, and many others can be bargained collectively, often to the great advantage of faculty members.  I was a unionized and tenured faculty member at two universities and greatly appreciated my membership.  For someone who is not part of higher education to say that a faculty's collective choice to unionize is stupid demonstrates both a lack of understanding of the position a faculty member is in and a disregard for his or her professional choices.  If you do not wish to unionize, do not do so, but do not judge my decision if I wish to.

BruckJr wrote on February 17, 2015 at 8:02 pm

How do you know he/she is not part of higher education?