Union advocates on this campus want to represent themselves as the tireless advocates for faculty salary improvement.
But let’s look at the facts.
For the past three years, our campus has exceeded the university-wide minimum for salary increases. This came as a result of close collaboration between senate leaders and administrators within the shared governance framework, not as a result of collective bargaining.
These increases surpassed what the UIC faculty union negotiated, retroactively, after two years of acrimonious fighting, a strike – and a threatened, even bigger, second strike.
In fact, the UIC union used Urbana’s higher increases as the benchmark for what they tried to get – unsuccessfully.
If you subtract union dues, the net salary increase for the Chicago faculty comes off even worse.
This year our campus increment was the same as was negotiated by the union at UIC: a 2.5% base increase, and an additional 1% for “compression, merit, equity, and retention” (CMER).
The CFA praised this increase, somehow thinking that we should give the UIC union credit for our increase on this campus. But, in fact, making our salary increments the same as those specified in UIC’s contract HURTS our faculty, because our salary increases have actually been better than UIC’s over the past several years.
Apparently it is more important for the CFA to support their union colleagues at UIC than to advocate strongly for faculty interests here.
Meanwhile, the Compensation Review Committee created by last summer’s Senate Task Force, which the CFA opposed, issued a carefully detailed and data-driven analysis of where our campus salaries need to be enhanced.
The CRC showed that on average our campus salaries are almost 3% behind those of our peers (and prime competitors) for faculty, and in some units as much as 10% behind. They call for a concerted plan to eliminate this gap, emphasizing especially those campus units that are furthest behind.
The Chancellor and Provost have publicly embraced the recommendations of the CRC report and are committed to addressing these problems.
But there is no way that the gaps between the salaries on our campus and on our peer campuses can be remedied if we follow the CFA’s apparent notion that we ought to match what we do on this campus to equal the increases provided on the other U of I campuses.
In effect, what was negotiated by the union at UIC as a salary floor has become a salary ceiling for all the campuses. This may be represented by the CFA as a victory for solidarity, but it is not good for our faculty.
Meanwhile, the Senate’s Compensation Review Committee also strongly endorsed the development of a supplementary retirement program for faculty, a topic on which the CFA has been virtually silent.
On our campus, it is the Senate and its committees who are pushing to improve faculty salaries and retirement options, and are committed to continuing to do so: the CRC report recommends formalizing the ad hoc committee, and producing an annual report on how well we are doing to address salary concerns and doing an in-depth analysis of the competitiveness of our total compensation package every three years.
The perpetual promise that some day, somehow, faculty unionization will remedy campus salary deficiencies needs to be matched against the actual progress that shared governance – faculty working collaboratively with the administration – has achieved for our campus.
This belies the repeated CFA claim that the Senate is powerless to do anything to improve salaries.
And, unlike a union, the Senate does not tax the faculty at the level of 1% or more of their salary every year.
***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.***