UIS United Faculty negotiating 19 months
“In 2015, UIS tenure-track faculty voted to unionize so we could negotiate our salaries, benefits, and working conditions with the UIS administration. We were concerned about our own welfare but also that of our students. Research shows that public universities with unionized faculty devote more resources to classroom instruction, and have lower tuition and higher graduations rates.
Because faculty working conditions are student learning conditions, faculty unions are good for students as well as professors! For the last 19 months, we have been trying to negotiate a contract with the UIS administration that protects our jobs and prioritizes teaching and learning.
We have spent countless hours in preparation and in bargaining sessions to secure a fair contract, in addition to our teaching, research, and other responsibilities. But the UIS administration has not bargained in good faith.
Professors come to UIS to be teachers and scholars at a public university. However, the UIS administration provides fewer resources to support teaching while increasing its demands on faculty.
There is unrelenting pressure to raise enrollments but, because of low salaries, the university struggles to recruit and retain quality professors. UIS professors have received raises in only four out of the last eight years, a period that began with furloughs (a 1.5 percent pay reduction).
By the university’s own admission, our salaries rank 11th among our 14 peer institutions.
This problem is not new; it is not caused by the current budget crisis in Illinois. Over the last decade, the UIS administration has shifted resources away from the classroom and into administrative growth – the main driver of tuition increases.
Since 2006, the number of executive, managerial, and administrative jobs at UIS has grown by more than 60 percent while the size of the faculty has increased only 27 percent.
UIS now has one administrator for every nine students, and one for every two professors – that’s twice the ratio at most other Illinois public universities! While the administration wastes money on overseas travel, expensive consultants, and avoidable lawsuits it eliminates faculty positions, increases class sizes, and guts library funds and academic program budgets – directly affecting the quality of students’ education.
Because the administration refuses to take negotiations seriously, we were forced to request federal mediators to facilitate negotiations.
Recently, the administration has proposed contract language that would eliminate the traditional role faculty play in determining which professors are tenured; dictate materials and methods faculty use to teach students; determine the course schedule without considering student or faculty preferences; and allow professors to be fired over funding issues, even in the middle of the semester.
If enacted, such proposals would harm both students and professors at UIS. We are at UIS because we are dedicated to teaching students.
We want to be in the classroom, not at the bargaining table or on the picket line. UIS students are the reason UIS exists – the reason faculty and administrators have jobs.
We believe the UIS administration has lost sight of these facts. Going forward, we will need your support while we fight for a fair contract – one that benefits both UIS faculty and their students!
[The Journal] Editor’s Note: On April 13 the union voted “overwhelmingly” for the ability to call strike if needed.”
Published in The Journal 19 April 2017