SPRINGFIELD – Visiting academic professionals at the University of Illinois have voted to form a union.
Now those who worked to organize the employees are preparing for negotiations with the university.
The vote was 62-41 in favor of being represented by a union, with two other ballots cast that were challenged, said Steve Vaughan, an organizer with the Illinois Education Association. About 350 employees were eligible to vote in the election.
"A 60-40 split is great," Vaughan said. "It's pretty standard for campaigns that are successful downstate."
The employees voted in a union election in April, but their ballots weren't counted until Monday. The ballot boxes were sealed and the count delayed while the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board decided an appeal by the UI on whether visiting academic professionals are an appropriate group to organize. It ruled on July 14 that the employees could form a collective bargaining unit.
The UI could still appeal that ruling to the appellate court. Deputy University Counsel Steve Veazie said UI officials have not yet decided whether they might appeal.
Chris Ritzo, a visiting academic professional who works at the UI's computer help desk and is on the steering committee for the union election, said he is pleased with the outcome of the election, although he wishes more people had voted.
"We're hoping, as we prepare for bargaining, we're going to see more people give us feedback and more people get involved now that we got over this hurdle," Ritzo said.
He said the steering committee will hold a membership drive and contact those eligible to join the union. It is surveying the employees to find out what their concerns are, and it may set up a separate Web site for them.
Visiting academic professionals hold the same types of jobs that nonvisiting academic professionals do, but they are hired in a different way and they can hold their visiting status for up to three years.
Ritzo said the main issues for the employees are that they are not entitled to any advance notice of termination and they are not eligible for a program that would help them find other jobs within the university. They also want standard grievance procedures.
"We just want to be treated like the other academic professionals," Ritzo said.