By: Anna Junko, Senior Editor for Student Literature and Art (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Faculty, administrators, and students can all agree on one thing: the collective bargaining dispute is unpleasant for everyone.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. John Casey, a member of the UIC United Faculty’s Representative Assembly. Casey is a nontenured English professor and part of the UIC United Faculty bargaining team. He says that, although he is dedicated to UIC’s mission of providing high-quality education at affordable prices, the administration is making it increasingly difficult for faculty to meet these goals.
“I had a student pass out during class in the Behavioral Science Building,” he says. “It was 90 degrees in there, the thermostat was broken, and she had to be brought into the hallway. Is this what UIC students deserve?”
Casey says there are many problems at the bargaining table, but the biggest issue is the lack of urgency on the part of the administration. The University of Illinois, if it wants to attract quality faculty, must pay a competitive salary.
Some professors with PhDs currently make between 20 and 30 thousand dollars.
“We have made some progress, particularly on non-monetary issues, but I’ve described that progress as being glacial,” he says.
The University of Illinois administration and the UIC United Faculty Union have been negotiating for two years. Casey says that this timeline is unacceptable to union members, and many are struggling to make ends meet. The administration upped healthcare premium charges while claiming that salaries cannot be increased until a contract has been signed. Faculty pay has decreased, and an Unfair Labor Practice Charge has been filed against administration.
The Union believes that a fair compromise is within reach, but that bullying and offer rejections disguised as counteroffers hinder progress.
“Let’s get serious,” Casey says. “Let’s meet in the middle.”
The most difficult aspect of this strike is the fact that students are involved in a labor dispute at all. Most union disputes affect two parties: management and laborers. If a strike closes a business, its products are temporarily unavailable to customers. However, students at UIC cannot be refunded for days they cannot attend class.