UIC’s faculty union begins strike-authorization vote
BY SANDRA GUY Staff Reporter December 2, 2013 7:30PM
Updated: January 4, 2014 6:31AM
Bargaining talks that have lasted a year-and-a-half between the University of Illinois at Chicago and its unionized faculty reached a breaking point, as faculty started voting Monday to authorize a strike.
The vote, which will continue through Thursday, is expected to be “overwhelming” in favor of a strike because the two sides are at an impasse and frustration is building, said Joe Persky, an economics professor and president of the University of Illinois at Chicago United Faculty, the faculty union.
Yet no strike will occur automatically. First, the 700 union members would have to meet, the union’s Representative Assembly would have to vote in favor, and the union would have to give 10 days’ notice before a walkout.
If a strike were to occur, it would be some time during the spring semester.
“When money was tight, UIC faculty sacrificed for students and the university,” Persky said, noting that the faculty has had one pay raise in the past five years and took four furlough days four years ago. “Now, with nearly $1 billion dollars in surplus funds, the university president refuses to use even a small fraction of those funds for faculty compensation. His position is not only unwise, it’s unfair.”
Persky said the main sticking points in bargaining for a four-year contract — a first-ever such contract because the faculty first joined a union in September 2011 — are:
• A living wage of $45,000, up from today’s minimum $30,000; multi-year contracts, and a promotion system for so-called lecturers — 80 union faculty members who work full-time but are non-tenured;
• Greater faculty control of governance and curriculum, including expanding its role in budgetary decisions.
• A process in which certain long-term faculty make less money than their newly hired peers who make “market” rate salaries.
University spokesman Bill Burton said Monday the administration is optimistic an agreement can be achieved, especially since a federal mediator has started meeting with the two sides.