By: Anna Junko, Senior Editor for Student Literature and Art (firstname.lastname@example.org)
After 16 months of back-and-forth negotiating and 65 bargaining sessions between the union and the University, the UIC United Faculty Union filed a notice of intent to strike with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board on January 30th. The union urges students to stay home from class on February 18th and 19th. A message to students on the union’s website says, “We hope you will join us in fighting for a better UIC by not attending your classes on those two days.”
The opposing groups are utilizing a federal mediator, but the union says that the University has only met with them for one hour out of 24.5 hours of bargaining sessions over the past two weeks. The union says the walkout will occur until the administration begins to “bargain in earnest.”
The UIC United Faculty union, which is affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors, voted in December to strike if necessary. They urge students to picket with faculty during the walkout.
The union represents both tenured and nontenured faculty, and says that on average, UIC professors are paid less than high school teachers. Over the last five years, UIC Administrator salaries have increased 10 percent while tenured faculty position salaries have increased 1 percent. UIC faculty members have not received raises in two years, which hinders the hiring and retaining of high-quality professors. The group requests a 3.5 percent salary increase and seeks a $45,000 minimum salary for full-time lecturers.
University officials have not met these demands.
The University says that a fair contract has already been offered, and that recent union statements are false and misleading. The University set up a website after the union filed an intent to strike, rebuking union statements made by Professor Darold Barnum. Barnum recently wrote an “Update on Faculty Negotiations and Potential Job Action,” which the University says contains many inaccuracies.
The University’s open letter is titled, “Fact Check Concerning False or Misleading Claims Made by Union Leadership.”
The inconsistencies expressed on both sides of the divide demonstrate the vast gulf between the union and the University, and many students are worried about disrupted classes and frustrated with the abundance of conflicting information. The state of Illinois’ difficulties with pension reform loom in the background of the UIC disagreement, and students are uneasy. If anything is certain, it’s that these negotiations are about to get even more complicated.