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Teachers At UIC May Strike Next Week

By aaroncynic in News on Feb 13, 2014 10:30PM

Photo credit: Pablo

Union teachers from the University of Illinois at Chicago and their supporters are making preparations to hit the picket line next week if they can't strike a deal with the school's administration soon.

UIC United Faculty, which represents faculty both tenured and not tenured, voted last week to authorize a two-day strike if the university's Board of Trustees doesn't begin to “bargain in earnest.” “The heart of UIC is its faculty and its students, but the trustees short change them both,” said UICUF President Joe Persky in a press release. “They take more of our students’ tuition money, and even with hundreds of millions in profits each year and more than a billion dollars in reserves, they refuse to pay professors what they're worth.”

UIC is the first major public research university in Illinois to have a union. UICUF first organized in 2011 and represents more than 1,100 full time faculty. Since the union was certified in the summer of 2012, UICUF has had more than 50 bargaining sessions with the administration, which were joined by a federal mediator in November. Leadership within the organization authorized the potential strike in December with at least 800 members casting ballots and 95 percent of rank and file members in favor.

Among UICUF's demands are what they say is a living wage—a minimum salary of $45,000 for full time lecturers and multi-year contracts, along with a 3.5 percent raise for all faculty. According to union officials, most faculty who teach first year students presently make $30,000. In addition, UICUF is demanding a “clear system of promotion” for non tenure track faculty, a commitment to improve learning conditions for students and faculty control of governance and curriculum. University officials say they've “exchanged comprehensive proposals” with the union and that they've “offered a fair contract.” Information provided by the university state's they've offered 2 and 2.75 percent increases for tenured teachers that also includes a 0.5 percent bump “in each of the first two years for market/equity.” Non tenured professors would get an incremental increase over the next few years which would top off at $36,000.

The union and its supporters say what's the administration isn't being serious enough about coming to the bargaining table, especially given the amount of money UIC is taking in. According to a statement released today, the university took in $275 million in unrestricted profits annually for the last four years and will again in 2014. Tuition has also increased by 25% since 2007 and enrollment is up by 10%. Most UIC professors haven't received a raise in two years and had mandatory furlough days three years ago. “It is outrageous that the University has increased tuition and burdened students with debt, all while socking away almost a billion dollars of students' money,” said Dan Montgomery, President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, of which UICUF is an affiliate. “Just as outrageous is that the administration has spent the students' tuition dollars on increasing the number of administrative positions and reducing the number of faculty.”