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Faculty Union Votes Yes to Option Strike

Tom Ackerman | Posted on April 14, 2019

Former faculty union president, current Economics Professor Joseph Persky. Also pictured is union member and poll worker, union member Angela Dansi

Former faculty union president, current Economics Professor Joseph Persky. Also pictured is union member and poll worker, union member Angela Dansi

University of Illinois at Chicago — Are your professors grumbling about the possibility of another strike on campus or do they say it is necessary?

The Faculty Union has voted to authorize a strike, but that does not necessarily mean they will do so.

The faculty may choose to strike after 10 days of filing an intent to strike. They filed their intent to strike April 11, meaning the faculty could strike on April 21 or any day after within the semester.

The administration met with union members Friday and both brought proposals for a hopeful agreement. The two parties plan to meet three times next week or until a settlement is reached.

The union will strike this semester or they will likely not strike at all.

In an email, Charitianne Williams, who is a Senior Lecturer and a faculty union member of the bargaining committee, wrote that the union wants a fair contract now, referring to faculty having negotiated for over a year while working without a contract. “We have seen and analyzed budgets and funding, studied contracts at other universities, and are not asking for anything that has never been done at other universities,” Williams wrote.

Many of the arguments surround requests or higher wages and transparent disciplinary processes, meaning the union seeks to establish a shared process on disciplining or dismissing instructors at UIC, and that both faculty and administration should follow and understand a standard practice.

According to the faculty union’s website, more than 93 percent of voting union members voted ‘yes’ to the strike authorization.

Poll boxes were present on campus for three days. The casting ballots included one sheet for tenure track faculty and another for non-tenure track members, due to legality that entails two similar contracts, former faculty union president and professor of Economics, Joseph Persky said.

Persky said he is surprised to see the possibility of a strike after the union struck in 2014 to reach a contract and won.

Provost Susan Poser sent a mass email to faculty and students Friday that partially read “the UIC United Faculty (UIC UF), the union representing the bargaining unit of UIC tenured/tenure-track faculty (excluding faculty in the colleges of medicine, pharmacy, and dentistry), and the bargaining unit of non-tenure track faculty has given notice of an intent to strike.” She said the administration remains hopeful to avoid a faculty strike.

Not every faculty member is a part of the union. While the percentages of union membership per department may not be released by the union, for reasons of confidentiality, some departments are known to be rallying supporters of the efforts while other departments may have significantly less ability to collectively vote or participate.

Each individual may choose to work or not work in the event of a potential strike.

An anonymous source described her experience as an Assistant Professor. She may not work at UIC permanently and is not a union member. If a strike occurred, she may continue to hold her classes as final exams approach. “It’s not that I think unions are wrong. It’s that personally, I’m not a strong union proponent at this point in my life.”

The source said that faculty may experience differences in pay in opportunities outside of the university, which could cause a difference in opinion about union activity, despite the overwhelming support for the authorization of the strike vote from union members.

The source said many of her students are graduating and that prospective employers often require a final grade from the students.

Katya Kulik is a visiting lecturer, meaning she is a non-tenure track faculty member. Kulik voted to authorize the strike but hopes it will not happen. “I think at this point everyone hopes the strike will not happen, but negotiations aren’t settled if two weeks it could be inevitable.”

Kulik added that union activity may not have a long-lasting effect on her career, depending on where she is hired, but “small battles” are necessary. She said her pay could be much lower at other colleges in the city but she still agrees with the union’s requests.

The potential strike follows at the heels of the Graduate Employee Organization, as they settled on a tentative agreement last week after a three-week strike. GEO will receive a $2,550 wage increase over the next three years which is the largest pay increase in the young union’s history.

“The Chancellor and the Provost have a vision for the university but it is too narrow,” Persky said. “The administration has dragged their feet on a fair settlement for the faculty.”

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