Mission Statement

The purpose of this blog is to deconstruct the rhetoric and strategies of faculty union advocates at the University of Illinois. A consequential decision like this must be based on facts, not spin. Right now only one side of the argument is being presented to faculty. This blog represents the other side of the argument.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013



You have heard a lot from local faculty union advocates about the union decision at University of Oregon. We’ll be doing a post later about myths and reality there. But before that, let’s look at a case that is much closer to home, and a better predictor of how a faculty union process would play out here.

Local advocates have cited UIC as a model for how they want to organize. So let’s take a look at how things are going up north.

First of all, the faculty union at UIC has been decidedly ineffective in settling on a contract. It has been more than a year and negotiations are grinding on with no end in sight. Of course, it is said that this is all because of recalcitrant administrators who are refusing to give the union what it wants. There are always two sides to every story, but the undeniable fact is that it takes BOTH parties to make an agreement, and it hasn’t happened yet.

Meanwhile, because the contract isn’t settled, faculty at UIC have missed out on two years of salary increases that colleagues on the other two UI campuses have already received. Will their final salary settlement make up for that lost ground? We’ll see.

And remember: any increases in salary have to be adjusted by the union dues or “fair share” dues that all faculty, whether members of the union or not, will have to pay. Are faculty at UIC getting what they pay for? Is this roller coaster ride of frustration and underperformance by the union what they were promised when they signed their cards?

Second, you need to know that the Faculty Organizing Committee at UIC has already endorsed a strike as part of their strategy to get a contract signed. Among their approved actions (from the UICUF web site):
  1. Early in November, a massive contract rally. Mark your calendars for November 7th from 11:30am-12:30pm for an event outside of University Hall. Everyone should begin working on getting 2 members who were not present at the Oct 7th meeting to commit to attending the rally. Faculty who teach during that time are urged to treat it as a teach-in and invite their students.
  2. A one-day work stoppage/teach-in closer to the end of the semester.
  3. An action (To be announced) at the UIC Urban Forum on December 5th.
  4. At the end of the semester, submitting Supplemental Grade Report (SGR) forms rather than entering grades in the Banner System.
  5. Finally, if necessary, a work stoppage until the contract is settled, to begin early in the spring semester.
There was this quote cited approvingly on their Twitter feed: “We always talk about what we want, but how are we going to get it? Historically you get it by causing trouble.”

Other strategies that were favorably considered by the Faculty Organizing Committee, but in the end not approved at this time, included withdrawal of all voluntary services and withholding of midterm grades. “Withdrawal of all voluntary services” means refusing to serve on committees or do any governance work (and individual faculty have already started refusing to do so).

Faculty here need to decide whether they want to live and work on a campus where actions like this are considered acceptable professional behavior by faculty – and whether these are likely to be strategically wise and effective actions, especially considering how they would be viewed by politicians, parents, and citizens across this state and by others, including prospective students, across the country.

Third, there are other aspects of the tone and strategy being adopted by union organizers at UIC, who are advised by the same union strategists from the Illinois Federation of Teachers and the AAUP as are the union advocates here.

Here's one example: spend money to buy and distribute stickers!

You can decide for yourself whether handing out stickers “demanding” voice, transparency, and respect is an effective political strategy. To us it seems feeble and ineffectual.

Faculty on this campus EXPECT these things as a matter of course from our campus administrators: they are built into the structures of shared governance and our campus traditions. It is a deviation from expectations when they don’t happen; we don’t have to “demand” them. Administrators who don’t understand this do not do well here – just ask Mike Hogan. We can always do better, but the situation on this campus is nothing like the situation at UIC.

Fourth, at UIC’s Freshman Convocation, which should be about the excitement and optimism of UIC's new students – many of them first in their families to attend college – students were met with this welcome:

Ice cream bars! With a message!

Yep, that's right: faculty union advocates made sure to let the new students know that, if they thought Freshman Convo was all about them, they were wrong. It was actually a chance to start feeling sorry for their poor underpaid professors, most of whom make more than the students’ own families.

The union members bragged on their web page about handing out all 400 of these bars (“we gave out all we had”) – as if it is any great accomplishment to hand out free ice cream to students. And we wonder how many of those students asked if faculty salary increases might mean a tuition increase for them and their families.

Finally, there is the increasingly belligerent tone taken toward members of the administration from union members up at UIC. Here’s a costume performance that folks up there considered an example of fine mordant satire:

Faculty union advocates keep saying that they don’t want to make administrators into the enemy, and that if authorized to bargain on the faculty’s behalf they will be strong and effective partners in negotiations. But we keep seeing statements that demonize the Evil Administrators, including posts from this campus, which are untrue, unfair, and counterproductive. We’ll be sharing some of them here in future blog entries.

But they really can’t help themselves: caricaturing the administration in childish and disrespectful ways is just too darn fun!

Would you want these folks to be the ones representing and speaking for the faculty on our campus to colleagues around the world?  To our students and the parents who pay their tuition? To the people of Illinois? 

*** This blog is a jointly authored project by two people who believe that the campaign for tenure-track faculty unionization has damaged morale and divided our campus, and that a faculty union, if ever established, would erode academic quality and undermine our highly successful system of campus shared governance, which has earned nationwide praise.

We speak for ourselves. We have no organization behind us, we don’t ask for funding, we don’t pay national hired guns to come in and make the case for us.

We want to start a different campus conversation about faculty unionization, which we believe will be more thoughtful and substantive when people have all the facts. 

We welcome and will consider postings from others expressing issues and concerns about faculty unionization. We know that many faculty are very upset about the possibility of working on a unionized campus. 

If you see any information here that is inaccurate, please tell us and we will correct it.

If you share our concerns and want to help, please forward these postings to your friends and colleagues, and urge them to do the same. ***