Chicago Faculty Strike for Fair Pay

By Ezra Deutsch-Feldman

After a year and a half of contract negotiations—sixty bargaining sessions, with little progress—the faculty union at the University of Illinois at Chicago went on a two-day strike in February. The members of UIC United Faculty, which represents tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty in separate units and is affiliated jointly with the AAUP, the American Federation of Teachers, and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, demonstrated on campus during the strike, along with other supporters of the union. At issue was the question of salary, particularly for nontenured faculty. Many faculty members teaching first-year courses get paid only $30,000 per year, according to Joseph Persky, president of the union; the union wants the minimum full-time salary to be raised to $45,000. 

The solidarity among tenuretrack and non-tenure-track faculty was a particularly notable aspect of the strike. Administrators at UIC in 2011 had challenged the union’s right to certify as one bargaining unit that included both tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty. The UIC faculty responded to the challenge by organizing as one union consisting of two separate bargaining units that negotiate as a team. 

More than 1,500 faculty and staff members, students, and other allies participated in the actions. The union received statements of support from the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, National Nurses United, Graduate Students United at the University of Chicago, and many individual well-wishers around the country. Local and national media covered the event. 

“The UIC February strike effectively forced the administration to move closer to signing a fair collective bargaining agreement that recognizes the value and role of faculty,” Persky said. “Compensation and shared governance remain issues.” As of press time, the chapter had announced a tentative agreement with the administration.