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.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014



In January 2014, union organizers on campus distributed a glossy brochure entitled, “We Support the Faculty Union” (sic: there is no faculty union).

It included a number of featured advocates and testimonials, and on the inside cover listed about 700 names in fine print.

Immediately after, CFA held a public event at which they claimed that they were “very close” to having support from a majority of faculty.

A News-Gazette article about the event cited CFA spokeswoman Susan Davis:

The group has been asking faculty to sign a statement of support over the past year. Davis wouldn’t disclose numbers but said the group has won commitments from “very close to a majority” of the about 1,800 tenure-track and nontenure-track faculty it believes could be part of a bargaining unit.

How can we evaluate this claim? The CFA has been asked in the Senate for clarification about the numbers they are claiming, and they have provided none. Given the close timing between their distribution of the brochure and their announcement, we only have the names listed in the brochure as evidence of their support. (You can debate whether 700 is “very close” to a majority of 1800.)

But even the list of 700 who supposedly support a faculty union includes a significant number of errors.

First, the CFA has said that colleagues are being asked to sign the CFA “mission statement.” But this cannot be counted as indicating support for a faculty union. The word “union” does not even appear in the mission statement. A number of people have reported to us that, when CFA and state and national union representatives visited them in their offices, they were told that signing the mission statement only indicated that they thought the option of forming a faculty union was worth exploring. They signed the statement to indicate that they had an open mind about the issue, but had not made a decision, much less a commitment.

To count these people as supporters or to claim their numbers as a predictor of who would actually sign a legally binding union card is misleading – and it raises the question once again of what is actually being said and promised to people in these closed-door office visits.

Second, the CFA list of names includes many emeritus faculty, other retirees, and non-tenure-track faculty who would not be eligible to vote in a card campaign to establish a tenure-track faculty union. These people may support the establishment of a faculty union, but they cannot be counted as evidence for the claim that organizers are very close to a majority of voters.

Third, considering the Davis quote more closely raises the question of whether organizers would be combining tenure-track and non-tenure track voters in order to reach a majority. There are around 1800 tenure-track faculty in the proposed bargaining unit (which does not include faculty in Law and Vet Med). A state appeals court has ruled that non-tenure track faculty would have to be organized in a separate potential bargaining unit. Tenure-track faculty members cannot sign cards for a non-tenure-track bargaining unit, nor vice-versa. The figure of 1800 Davis is reported to be basing her calculations on cannot refer to “a bargaining unit” that contains both tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty members.

Fourth, we have heard from a number of colleagues who have told us that they never gave permission for their names to be included in the brochure, and who do not support establishing a union. 
In fact, there are at least sixteen names claimed on CFA’s list as supporters who have signed our statement OPPOSING a faculty union, which in just a few weeks has grown to over 300 signatures and counting.

Considering all this evidence, it is clear that the CFA has done a very poor job of checking whether the names they claim as supporters actually are supporters who would be willing and eligible to sign a union card.

The fact that they are claiming supporters who are clearly not supporters and blurring the legal requirement that they have to achieve TWO separate majorities, one for a tenure-track campaign and one for a non-tenure-track campaign, does not bode well for how carefully they would manage a card campaign, if they ever held one.
***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.***