Voting concludes with 98 percent in support by first faculty at a top-tier research university in Illinois to form a union
CHICAGO – After nearly two years of collective bargaining with university administration, today faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) overwhelmingly ratified their first labor contracts, which will dramatically improve work life and professional conditions for tenure-track and non-tenure track members. The tentative agreement reached with management on April 16 was ratified with a decisive 98 percent of the vote this week.
Faculty made history in 2011 by becoming the first faculty from a large research university in Illinois to organize a union – the UIC United Faculty (UICUF).
“We formed this union to give UIC faculty a collective voice and the protections we need to advocate for our school, our students, and our members,” said Joe Persky, President of UIC United Faculty. “This agreement helps us do just that.”
UICUF consists of nearly 1,000 tenured/tenure-track faculty and non-tenure track faculty with 51 percent or more appointments.
The nearly unanimous vote reflects the faculty’s solidarity throughout the bargaining process. UICUF reached this settlement with management following a two-day work stoppage in mid-February, further threat of an open-ended strike in late April, an appeal for binding arbitration, as well as a massive email and social media campaign to demand a fair contract from University of Illinois President Easter and the Board of Trustees.
The contract, which applies retroactively for two years and extends through next year, increases faculty compensation, including a new minimum lecturer salary of $37,500. Previously, a lecturer with a PhD who teaches a required writing course for all incoming freshmen earned only $30,000 a year. The contract also provides stability through a system of promotion for these lecturers.
Faculty will also receive support for professional development and a computer replacement program.
“The contract agreement reached at UIC is an historic moment for the academic profession,” said Howard Bunsis, chair of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress. "The membership was able to achieve a contract that fairly compensates those who do the critical work of educating the students at UIC. Just as important, this contract gave a voice in the process and a seat at the table to both tenure track and contingent faculty. That voice and that seat will demonstrate to students and the university community that everyone benefits when we work collectively.”
“This is a major victory for the entire University community,” said Dan Montgomery, President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. “I’m so proud of our dedicated UICUF members who displayed incredible strength and solidarity again and again during this long fight. Their successful efforts will ensure that UIC remains a world-class institution that attracts and retains top tier faculty for its students.”
"For two years, UIC United Faculty has been fighting for professional dignity and respect and to give their students what all college students deserve: reasonable class sizes, individualized instruction, support for cutting-edge research, and classrooms and labs that are safe and well-equipped. And its work has paid off," said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. "This first contract includes big gains in professional working conditions—particularly for nontenure-track faculty. In the end, this historic contract is not just significant for faculty members, who have long suffered from low wages and adverse working conditions; it is also significant for the students and entire UIC community. That's the promise and possibility of collective bargaining."
UIC United Faculty is an affiliate of the statewide Illinois Federation of Teachers, American Federation of Teachers, and the American Association of University Professors.
The mission of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) is to advance academic freedom and shared governance; to define fundamental professional values and standards for higher education; to promote the economic security of faculty, academic professionals, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and all those engaged in teaching and research in higher education; to help the higher education community organize to make our goals a reality; and to ensure higher education's contribution to the common good.
About UIC UF: Local 6456 (IFT/AFT) is legally recognized to represent all full-time tenured and non-tenured faculty at UIC. It is committed to realizing the mission of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) as a public research university in a democratic society; making sure that every member of the faculty shares in the traditions of shared governance; making the promise of shared governance a reality through the power of collective bargaining; and keeping the principles of academic freedom, free speech and free inquiry central both to our union and our university.
The Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) is made up of more than 100,000 teachers and staff in PreK-12 school districts, higher education professionals, public employees, and retirees throughout Illinois. In addition to UIC UF, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU, Local 1), Cook County College Teachers Union (CCCTU, Local 1600), Chicago Alliance of Charters Teachers and Staff (ChiACTS, Local 4343), and several suburban unions are also IFT affiliates in the area.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.