Updated: UI union work stoppages would be short at first, leader says

Updated: UI union work stoppages would be short at first, leader says

New 3:10 p.m. Thursday:

The head of the non-tenure faculty union at the University of Illinois said any work stoppages would be short to begin with.

The union on Wednesday night voted to explore a strike amid contract talks with the university. The move could create a sticky situation where professors cancel classes around the time of final exams for the spring semester.  However, union president Shawn Gilmore said faculty have concerns about how the strike could impact submission of final grades.  So, he said any initial strike actions would be in the range of one to three days.

Gilmore said, though, that if the union believes there's no progress in negotiations, it may consider an open-ended strike, which could result in professors refusing to submit grades for their classes. He added that the union submitted its intent to strike notice to the state Thursday, which means actions could begin as early as April 17.  Several contract bargaining sessions have also been scheduled through June.

UI spokesperson Robin Kaler said if grade issues occur, department heads will figure out a solution in the best interest of students. She said the university is disappointed that the union felt the strike vote was necessary.

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Original story Wednesday:

URBANA — Some faculty members at the University of Illinois may walk off the job before the semester is over after their union voted to explore a strike.

After a two-day strike authorization vote by about 500 faculty members who aren’t part of the tenure system, the Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition Local 6546 said Wednesday that union members "by an overwhelming majority" endorsed forming a strike committee and taking labor actions, such as canceling classes to stand on the picket line.  

The vote held Tuesday and Wednesday wasn’t whether to go on strike but whether to authorize union leaders to call a strike at some point.

As required by law, union leaders said Wednesday, Local 6546 will file an intent to strike notice with the UI and the state, and must wait 10 days from that time to begin any work stoppages.

The move comes as the union and the UI remain in contract talks. Last week, campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said UI officials were disappointed by the union’s call for an authorization vote but optimistic that a settlement could still be reached. 

The union represents almost 500 full-time lecturers, instructors and other faculty who aren’t on the tenure track but teach classes, conduct research or do clinical work.

The union won recognition a year and a half ago but is still trying to settle its first contract with the university. Negotiations began in October 2014.

Nontenure-track faculty are paid much less than their tenure-track counterparts and often work on year-to-year contracts. Their numbers have risen in recent years, at the UI and other campuses, while the ranks of tenured faculty have shrunk.

But union members say wages aren’t the biggest concern — even though most haven’t had a raise since summer 2013 while negotiations continued.

The union has been pushing for more job security through multi-year contracts; promotion and professional development opportunities; guarantees of academic freedom; and a role in the university’s shared governance process, among other items.

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Alex M. Mobley wrote on April 07, 2016 at 2:04 pm
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Among the other items NTFC members are seeking in a first contract are the creation of evaluation procedures to retain the best faculty, professional development, and the opportunity to compete for already existing research funds. Their working conditions are students' learning conditions.

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