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, May 6, 2014



On April 26, when the approved UIC faculty union contracts were finally released, the CFA promised “summaries of the UIC contracts with comment later today.”

Though they had some immediate positive things to say about the non-tenure track faculty contract, we heard nothing from them about the tenure-track contract. 

This silence is hardly surprising, since a simple comparison between what the union has secured for faculty at UIC, and what has been achieved on this campus without a union, is not very helpful for their case.

First, the UIC contract provides back pay for faculty during the two years that negotiations dragged on: 2.5% for 2012-13, and 3.25% for 2013-14, with an additional 1% for compression and equity raises (total: 6.75% over two years). During this same two-year period, faculty on this campus received 4.3% and 4.16% increases, a total of almost 8.5%, paid in full and on time in the normal salary cycle. (In fact, the UIC union used Urbana’s higher salaries as the benchmark for their salary demands.)

Salaries for next year have not been set and were not addressed in this contract, so no comparison is possible. Nor have dues levels been settled yet – but everyone should remember that any salary increases need to be offset by dues payments that are deducted directly from people’s paychecks. Hence, the net salary increases at UIC are even further behind what faculty, without paying dues, have received here.

Second, the threshold for promotion bonuses at UIC is set at 10% of salary. On this campus they are set at $7000 for promotion to Associate and $10,000 for promotion to Full, in addition to whatever raises faculty receive from their departments. Last year the average promotion bonus for faculty on this campus was over 14%.

Third, the UIC contract offers a “one-time, non-recurring reimbursement” of up to $1500 for research or professional development. On the Urbana campus, thanks to the Humanities and Arts Scholar Support program, faculty in those units received $1,000 for such purposes annually between 2008 and 2013, when the amount was raised to $1500. These funds recur every year. Many faculty receive more than this in research support from their departments, and all faculty have access to additional support from the Research Board.

Fourth, despite claims by the union that faculty governance needs “strengthening,” the contract leaves all statutory and existing governance structures in place: “Neither the University nor the Union intend that any of the terms of this Agreement abridge or diminish the roles of the faculty or the University as established in University Statutes . . . The parties to this Agreement recognize and support the role of the Faculty Senate as established by the University of Illinois Statutes.” We are encouraged by this recognition that shared governance is an effective and independent mechanism to express the voices and interests of the faculty, fully outside the control of the union.

Fifth, we note that a provision was included in the contract that would allow the union to collect “fair share dues” from faculty who are not members of the union, but only if more than half the faculty are fully dues-paying members. This is a fair and reasonable provision, since the moral justification for collecting fair share dues from everyone rests on the will of a democratic majority having committed themselves to the union.

This is the same provision, however, that was condemned by the union during negotiations as a “Scott Walker proposal” that was “anti-union, plain and simple.” Similarly, when we raised questions about possible fair share dues on this campus, the two of us were condemned by CFA members not only as “anti-union,” but as “right-to-work” shills in the service of the Koch Brothers. It is somewhat gratifying, therefore, to see that this particular “anti-union” provision was endorsed by 98% of the voting membership of the UIC union.

Finally, the contract outlines a grievance procedure that is no stronger in its protections for tenure-track faculty than the current provisions already in the Statutes, with the exception that it puts the final level of review in the hands of an outside arbitrator, not in the faculty or administrators of the campus. We leave it to you to judge whether that is a superior system.

The silence of local faculty union advocates on all these provisions is deafening.

The achievements of faculty and administrators working together on this campus to improve the compensation and working conditions for faculty have been produced without a union, without charging faculty dues, without strikes and strike threats, and without the kind of animosity evidenced by the UIC negotiations.

UPDATE: After we posted this, and after an editorial in the News Gazette, the CFA finally posted some comments on the UIC contracts. They do not address the comparative issues we raised, and they mostly focus on gains for non-tenure track faculty. But we cant say they are silent any more.

***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.***