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.

Monday, June 2, 2014



On May 14, the CFA announced on its website that a petition had been presented to the Illinois Labor Board to form a collective bargaining unit of non-tenure-track (“specialized”) faculty members on the Urbana campus. We were surprised by this news because, on April 7, we had been told by union organizers at a campus meeting that no card campaign had begun and that, while representatives of the national organization had flown in to spend some time on campus, it was only to gauge the degree of interest in forming a bargaining unit. We were disconcerted when we later read that “the card drive began shortly after the conclusion of spring break.” 

If ”shortly” is to be understood as within a week, the card campaign had in fact begun when we were being assured that it had not.

No law requires union organizers to announce when they have begun a card campaign. And it was in their interest not to announce the beginning of the card campaign, as the AAUP organizing manual makes clear: “Organizing campaigns often begin slowly and only go public’ when the organizers (the OC) are confident that they have majority support.”

But we have to ask, Is this the way to make fundamental policy decisions affecting faculty on this campus?

Being the optimists that we are, we like to think that people try to act on the principles that they espouse. The CFA has regularly lambasted “The Administration” and their own campus Senate for what it considers breaches of the commitment to transparency -- most recently here. We don’t think it is unreasonable to expect that faculty colleagues would be shown the respect and courtesy of being informed when such a crucial initiative had begun, after two years of public controversy over the matter, particularly when it was spearheaded by an organization whose mission statement claims that it will work for transparency in all . . decision-making.” 

Apparently the CFA is committed to pressing for other people’s transparency; but their own is a different matter.

More specifically, at the February 10 meeting of the campus senate, three questions were posed to campus Senators who were CFA members:

1. Has the card campaign begun? If not, upon what is the estimate of near-majority support based?

2. Does CFA estimate that they have majority support of tenure track faculty and also of non-tenure-track faculty – or have they combined the two groups in estimating their support? If the latter, are they aware of recent court ruling in UIC case that this was not legal?

3. Why have union organizers chosen to conduct a door-to-door signature campaign instead of having an open election?

After a conspicuous silence, one member of the CFA’s union organizing committee stood up and promised to bring answers to the next Senate meeting. In a follow-up email, she repeated that commitment. The Senate met again on March 10, and the questions went unanswered. On April 14, when the card campaign had in fact begun, there was an excellent opportunity for the CFA to announce that fact at that day’s Senate meeting, which ended with ample time to spare. Silence. By May 5, when the Senate held its last meeting of the 2013-14 academic year, and when union organizers were intensely engaged in a no-holds-barred attempt to persuade specialized faculty to sign union cards, once again no mention was made of the card campaign. Nine days later, we read that the card campaign was over and that the petition had been filed with the Illinois Labor Board.

We have repeatedly called for the CFA to live up to its stated commitments to transparency and democratic processes and to have a public debate and vote on unionization that is open, truly democratic, and participatory for all those affected by a possible union decision. 

Instead, they have opted for a process that is begun in secret, carried out in secret, in which only those in favor of a union get to vote, and which is only announced publicly once the decision is already made. We won’t speak for non-tenure-track faculty, but tenure-track faculty members will be justifiably furious if that ploy is used again.

We would expect our CFA colleagues to be outraged if any administrator were to undertake a major campus transformation and only tell the faculty about it after it was implemented. Why is a decision to unionize non-tenure-track or tenure-track faculty different?

Here is one difference: an administrative policy can usually be reversed. But Illinois labor law makes a decision to unionize very difficult to change. . . which helps to explain the strategy of only announcing a vote once it is a fait accompli.

***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.***