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UIC Faculty Begins Two-Day Strike

By aaroncynic in News on Feb 18, 2014 3:40PM

Photo credit: Pablo

Faculty at the University of Illinois at Chicago are planning to walk the picket line Tuesday and Wednesday in the first ever teacher's strike in the school's history. After 18 months of negotiation and bargaining sessions, UIC United Faculty (which represents more than 1,100 teachers) has been unable to come to an agreement with the administration.

"The negotiations have been dragging on almost interminably,” professor Joseph Persky, president of the union, told the Chicago Tribune. "I never thought we would get to the point where we had to strike to get a contract. It is time to deal with this." The faculty hasn't seen a raise since the union formed in 2011. A federal mediator stepped in during November to help arbitrate.

The striking teachers are seeking a minimum salary of $45,000 for full time lecturers and multi-year contracts, along with a 3.5 percent raise for all faculty. The administration for the university has offered to increase minimum salary to $36,000 by 2016. Faculty at the school's flagship campus in Champaign-Urbana received 4.15 percent to 4.65 percent raises this year. John Casey, a UIC graduate and English professor with a PhD making $30,000 a year told the Tribune:

“I am living off of my credit cards. It is not a position that someone should be in regardless of education, but particularly when you have a doctoral degree and spent all the time and money earning that degree. If I am teaching courses seen as being that important, you would think the paycheck would reflect that.”

UIC Provost Lon Kaufman said the salary minimums are “competative” to instructors at other universities, but that the administration recognizes the staff needs an increase. “It is certainly one of the major issues for us and one that will be remedied going forward,” he told the Tribune.

While money is certainly an issue, the strike isn't only limited to salary for the faculty. Union members also say the strike will help fulfill a mission of doing a better job of educating the university's students. They say that a bloated bureaucracy within the administration and a large increase in non-faculty positions has impeded decision making power by the faculty. Lennard Davis and Walter Benn Michaels, two UIC English professors writing for Jacobin, said:

The term “shared governance” is invoked to disguise this evisceration of power but what it mainly means is that faculty senates can “advise” the administration and the administration can then do whatever it wants. To call shared governance real governance is like saying your dog has an equal say in how your household is run because sometimes when he whines he gets fed.

One of our issues in this strike is to take back decision-making power over the issues that matter to us — curriculum, teaching conditions, the distribution of monies, and the like. The administration is fighting ferociously to retain that power — since giving it up would in effect be returning it from management to workers.

According to information provided by the union, members plan to picket from 9:00 a.m. To 4:00 p.m. today and tomorrow with rallies at 10:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. This evening, faculty and strike supporters will also picket the Battle of the Deans shootout at the UIC Pavillion and Chicago's chapter of the Overpass Light Brigade plan to send an LED message on the 290 overpass at Racine.