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New Faculty Union Under Attack

By Gwendolyn Bradley

On April 29, the University of Illinois Chicago United Faculty, a group jointly affiliated with the AAUP and the American Federation of Teachers, delivered hundreds of signed union authorization cards to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board—more than enough to certify the union under Illinois law. The faculty voted to have one union represent tenured, tenure-track, and contingent faculty who have appointments of at least 51 percent time.

But a week later, the university’s board of trustees filed a motion to dismiss the union’s petition, contending that nonpermanent and tenured or tenure-track faculty should not be part of a single bargaining unit. The university hired a pro-management law firm, Clark Baird Smith, to handle its case.

The faculty union members said they regretted that the university was adopting tactics used by other states to attack public employees and thwart their democratic right to form a union.

“We are profoundly disappointed that President Hogan and the university would treat faculty in such a hostile manner. We carry out the university’s mission and should have input in making UIC better for students and the instructional staff,” said Patricia O’Brien, an associate professor in UIC’s College of Social Work. “Instead of wasting tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on legal fees to create a wedge between faculty and administration, the administration should respect the will of its workers and begin negotiations immediately on a first contract.”

“We have followed the law, and previous case law clearly shows that we have every legal right to be recognized as a union,” said Darold Barnum, professor of managerial studies at UIC. “We call on the administration to end this attack on faculty and work with us to strengthen our university.”

Faculty members at UIC say they were motivated to unionize in part by a desire to assert a voice in how the institution is run and to help ensure that the tax and tuition dollars of the people of Illinois are directed toward the central mission of the university.

“Amid all the attacks on public-sector employees across the nation, the UIC United Faculty campaign is a powerful and historic statement of what is possible, of what faculty at a major public research university can do when they collectively work to secure their voice in shaping a high-quality public university that fulfills its social purposes and its academic potential,” said Gary Rhoades, the AAUP’s former general secretary.

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