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.

Sunday, September 28, 2014



State and national union organizations (the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers, and the American Association of University Professors) have invested considerable staff time and resources into the faculty union campaign on this campus. Have you wondered why?

Two words: Big Money.

These organizations will receive a hefty chunk of the money earned by faculty via union member dues and “fair share” dues automatically charged to non-members within the bargaining unit. We have collected some rough numbers to give you an idea of how much money we are talking about.

The campus Graduate Employee Organization (GEO) admirably provides full information about their finances on their web page. We want to note here the striking contrast with the faculty and student unions up at UIC, who provide none of this detail, and for that matter our own Campus Faculty Association, which makes this information available only to its members, and only upon request.

The GEO is affiliated with the IFT, the AFT, and the AFL-CIO rather than the AAUP. They collect 2% dues on gross salary, which in 2013 totaled $772,837. Of that, $525,529 (68%) went to these external organizations. They explain on their web site what these funds are used for, but it is clear that nowhere near a half million dollars of resources and services come back to the campus each year.

The GEO charges all graduate employees the 2% rate, making no distinction between regular membership and fair share dues. This seems to belie the rationale for fair share dues: the AAUP says that fair share dues should cover only “costs . . . that are germane to the Chapter's legal duties to represent you.” Since these are only a subset of the overall activities unions use dues for, fair share dues clearly should be less than full membership dues.

It is worth noting that the same situation exists up at UIC.

Furthermore, within our campus GEO fewer than half the students choose to be fully dues-paying members: in the current year, 2014, 53.2% are paying “fair share” dues. Up at UIC, even more remarkably, none of their GEO members are paying membership dues; they are all “fair share”!

How can you claim that your union is “democratic” when less than half of your constituency choose to be members? It seems reasonable to require that unions maintain a membership of over 50% of the members of the bargaining unit. Yet when this condition was written into the UIC faculty contract, union negotiators condemned it as an “anti-union” provision.

The “specialized” (non-tenure-track) faculty on this campus have chosen to unionize, but dues rates and other money matters have not been settled yet.

We also don’t know what the AAUP would charge faculty unions, compared to the AFL-CIO. But we do know that they just increased the per-member rate they charge to campuses for union affiliation for adjunct faculty and grad students, hiking it from $46 per member to $75 (that’s a 63% increase).

So what revenues would a tenure-track faculty union yield for these outside organizations? Excluding faculty from Law, Medicine, and Veterinary Medicine, who would not be eligible for a union, and estimating the dues at 1% of salary, membership and fair share dues would generate over $2 million annually. If the percentage transferred to outside organizations is roughly comparable to what the GEO is paying (68%), that would be about $1.4 million each year from tenure-track faculty – plus, of course, the half million already being transferred by the GEO, and plus whatever the non-tenure-track faculty union would be collecting and transferring.

That would total well over $2 million dollars a year transferred to outside union organizations from this campus: every year, year after year, in steadily increasing amounts.

For the CFA, this would mean about $600,000 a year from tenure-track faculty, plus whatever they get from their portion of non-tenure-track faculty dues. That’s more than 20 times what they are currently receiving from faculty ($31,745 in 2013). What would they do with such a windfall?

Its big money, indeed. You can see why they are fighting so hard to get it.

And without a discount for “fair share” dues, all faculty would be paying the same amount whether they choose to be in the union or not. That is inconsistent with the AAUP guidelines, and a distortion of what “fair share” dues mean.

***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.***