Author: Tony Floriani

10 Jan UICUF Prepares for Contract Campaign Escalation

UIC UNIONS UNITED_001

  • Progress remains elusive as tense contract negotiations set to resume Spring Semester
  • UICUF plans next steps and the imminent escalation of the contract campaign
  • Failure by Admin to acknowledge faculty issues in negotiations could lead to strike vote
  • Union urges faculty to speak with their college Representatives for info on future actions
  • To join the Organizing Committee, email UICUFJeff@gmail.com


Negotiations Continue With No End In Sight
UICUF and U of I Administration have been negotiating over the faculty union contract since June of last year, and our previous contract expired in August. In the final session between the two parties before winter break, discussion became heated as faculty attendees expressed frustration with Administration’s dismissive stance toward faculty proposals, hampering the pace of the proceedings. Cautious hope for fair treatment at the bargaining table notwithstanding, it is becoming clear that we will need to take action beyond those negotiations to win a contract we can all be proud of.

Organizing Committee to Escalate Campaign, Prepare for Possible Strike Vote
An Organizing Committee was convened yesterday to plan a campaign of escalating pressure on Administration. That campaign is intended to continue until faculty get a fair contract, and may incorporate workplace actions, including calling for a limited or indefinite strike before the end of the semester. The consideration for a strike is not taken lightly, but is seen as an increasingly likely outcome, if Administration continues to disregard faculty concerns and proposals in the negotiating process.  

In light of the growing need for direct action to secure a fair contract that respects faculty and enriches the UIC community, UICUF leadership is calling on all members to watch for ongoing union communications, and get involved in any way you are able. At this time, participation in our Organizing Committee, or as a Contract Action Team member are of paramount importance. To get involved, please email UICUFJeff@gmail.com. With your support, we can make UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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Until we win a fair contract, we will be issuing regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and here on our website. We strongly encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. If you want to contribute your story, pictures, video, or other content related to the activities of the union, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com. With your support, we can make UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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03 Jan 2018 – A Busy Year for UICUF

UICUF and allies from UIC Unions United make our concerns known at a meeting of the U of I Board of Trustees

UICUF and allies from UIC Unions United make our concerns known at a meeting of the U of I Board of Trustees

 

A Year of Challenges
2018 was a year of challenges for UIC United Faculty, and indeed, unions around the United States. From dealing with the Janus decision in the US Supreme Court, to engaging U of I Administration in what’s turned out to be a very contentious contract bargaining process, there has been plenty to keep our union members on their toes. We can, however, proudly say that we’ve tackled all of these challenges head-on, preparing for the worst, handling the bumps in the road as they came, and in many cases turning potential pitfalls into opportunities. While UICUF began 2018 with many uncertainties on the horizon, we ended the year stronger than ever.

The Janus Decision
Anticipating an anti-union ruling in Janus v AFSCME last spring, we chose to act, rather than wait for the axe to fall. Over the first six months of 2018, UICUF staff and member volunteers embarked on a campaign to meet with as many members as possible. By the time the Janus ruling did arrive in late June, we had met with more than 2/3rds of our members, virtually all of whom signed recommitment cards signalling their ongoing support, regardless of the changing legal environment. Thanks in no small part to member engagement, we experienced virtually no negative membership impact from Janus, and in fact, our membership has only grown since then — a trend that shows no sign of reversing.

U of I Tests the Boundaries and UIC Unions Unite
Just because we were well prepared for the Janus decision does not mean the event passed without incident. In the immediate aftermath of the decision, we found that UIC Payroll, and U of I Labor Relations had chosen to ignore months of meetings and advanced notices meant to keep their records of dues payers updated and accurate. Instead of acknowledging our updated lists and valid membership cards, they chose to arbitrarily end dues for 145 confirmed faculty union members, not fully restoring their dues status for nearly 2 months. Others were hit much worse than we were though, and this is how UIC Unions United was formed.

UIC has many unions involved on campus, but UICUF, UIC GEO, SEIU, and INA are some of the largest, representing over 8,000 workers. All of them realized after the Janus decision, that if we didn’t work together, Administration would simply continue to use the ruling as an excuse to pursue a broader union-busting agenda. Together, we formed a coalition, UIC Unions United, to push back on this agenda. Since then, we’ve demonstrated our strength through a number of actions, including a march on the Labor Relations office, a demonstration at the Board of Trustees meeting in November, and several pickets, to show that we won’t accept unilateral moves by the Administration to disenfranchise our members, or rewrite the terms of our contracts on their own say-so.

Since forming the coalition, the vast majority of members that UIC had cut from the rolls have been restored, though the university administration has done nothing to compensate the unions for these costly “errors.” More alarmingly, they still maintain that they have the right to revoke memberships at their own discretion without so much as informing the union. Every member organization of the coalition is now in the process of filing Unfair Labor Practices and/or grievances against the administration over these claims. We’re sure to see more of this play out in 2019. Regardless of the outcome, we all agree we are much stronger for having come together, even if it took difficult circumstances to galvanize us.

Contract Negotiations
UICUF’s contract was set to expire in August of 2018. Long in advance of that date, we had convened a group of faculty from nearly every college at UIC to prepare for contract bargaining. In the fall of 2017, we polled faculty to learn what they felt were the most pressing issues of the day, and planned for months on how to turn the results into proposals that could make it into a final contract. In May, the Bargaining Committee presented a demand to bargain, and in June, contract negotiations began in earnest. Or at least they appeared to.

What we quickly learned was that the negotiator assigned by U of I Administration had no interest in discussing, well, much of anything really. We presented our non-economic issues first. While there was feedback and even requests for re-writes, few counter-proposals were offered. At the same time, they held back campus wage pools, falsely claiming that it was the union’s fault. To be clear, if they truly wished to give out raises, labor law offers several commonly accepted avenues to do so, with the unions permission, which would have been given if sought. They chose not seek that permission, or even bring up the issue in negotiations beforehand, depriving us the opportunity to proactively offer it.

Since June, we’ve faithfully returned to the bargaining table, despite the growing evidence that the administration does not seem interested in negotiating, so much as dictating terms. Thus, we ended 2018’s bargaining sessions with dozens of faculty in the room, while members testified as to their disappointment in Administration’s disingenuous tactics, and the time wasted while they try to avoid serious negotiations. Discussion became heated, but we did conclude with a note of hope for 2019. When next we meet, we expect U of I’s negotiating team to honor their verbal commitment to return with written counterproposals for at least one of our proposed articles. It’s not much, but even incremental improvements are worth pursuing at this stage. With each effort that fails to bring us closer to a viable contract, tensions between the union and the administration will only rise. While we hope Administration will return to the table in 2019 willing to take seriously our full set of proposals, we are also anticipating the need to significantly increase our visibility beyond the bargaining table.

A New Year Ahead
2018 brought many challenges before the union, some of which are yet ongoing. 2019 is likely to bring more still, but we are ready to rise to the occasion, thanks to the support of our dedicated members and activists, and our allies on and off campus.  We do not yet have new bargaining dates set, but we do know that the U of I Board of Trustees will return to Chicago for a meeting on January 31st. We will continue to keep you informed of every opportunity for you to represent yourselves and your colleagues under the union banner.

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Until we win a fair contract, we will be issuing periodic updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and here on our website. We strongly encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. With your support, we can make UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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19 Dec Ending this Semester’s Bargaining with a Bang

UIC United Faculty's Bargaining Team caucusing with our members during a break in negotiations.

UIC United Faculty’s Bargaining Team caucusing with our members during a break in negotiations.

Tensions Boil Over (and Why That’s Okay)
It’s no secret that as time wears on, our bargaining sessions with Administration are becoming more contentious. The Administration team, for their part, appear perplexed with the pace of negotiations, claiming the ball is now completely in our court. Yet, they fail to even acknowledge the bulk of our proposals, choosing simply not to offer written counters despite demanding numerous rewrites from our side. This is not how we – or most people for that matter – bargain over a complex and nuanced written contract. In addition, faculty are frustrated with the low-ball salary numbers we’ve been given. That sentiment has only been exacerbated by claims that the Administration has no money available for more, because they have to choose their battles when seeking funding from the system. In translation, that seems to mean that they’ve chosen to pressure the union into accepting their meager merit raise offer, rather than ask the U of I system to adequately fund faculty salaries at UIC.

With all of these misgivings swirling about, it was hardly surprising that the situation exploded Monday, in plain view of the nearly 30 faculty members who came to observe the proceedings. Faculty members, who testified on a range of issues, expressed their distaste for what they see as Administration’s time-wasting and contrarian bargaining tactics. The Administration team, in turn, accused UIC United Faculty of acting and bargaining like a group of assembly-line workers, a shockingly tone-def attack on our identity as workers. 

Barbs were exchanged. Voices were raised. A recess was called. And then we all came back to the table and got on with the tough business of negotiating.

It may sound crazy, but that’s okay. Some things needed to be said, and we feel the bargaining process will proceed, if nothing else, more honestly for having this frank exchange.

In the aftermath, we feel that we have now made it very clear that we are unimpressed with the contention that Administration’s hands are tied on funding faculty raises. We also think they have finally gotten the message that we don’t intend to walk away from our non-economic priorities. This was underscored by faculty speaking their minds, and making sure concerns about workload and other matters are taken seriously.

Governance is Not a ‘Management Right’
One faculty member’s testimony, in particular, poignantly addressed the fine line between governance and management. Historically, faculty have enjoyed shared governance in US institutions of higher education, meaning that they advise on matters affecting their work, and have a direct say in areas like curriculum. Lately though, some UIC administrators have been appropriating exclusive rights over what faculty feel should fall into the realm of shared governance.

Workload is a prime example. Administration believes that assigning work is a management right, and to some extent that may be true. However, UIC United Faculty contends that setting standards for such assignments should be a collaborative process in which shared governance is applied, working through the unit’s advisory or executive committee. A Dean may ultimately make the final decisions, but shared governance means that faculty are consulted. It means that faculty have input. It means that faculty have a voice, even if it is not the final say on the subject. And having a voice does matter!

As an immediate example, faculty in Applied Health Sciences last year were faced with a unilateral decision by their Dean to increase their course loads without a corresponding increase in pay. With the union’s help, they were able to push back and re-engage the process of shared governance, before the new policies took effect. Their voice mattered, and using it made a difference, even if final decisions technically still lie in the hands of an administrator. Such critical decision-making, however, shouldn’t have to rise to this level of imposition and outrage for faculty to be consulted, which is why our proposals on expanding shared governance matter so much.  

A Silver Lining
With so much tension in the room, we’re actually fairly pleased with the outcomes. Administration, to their credit, came back to the table after our recess, offering to submit a written counter to our workload proposal. That matters because, to date, Administration has been keen to point out why they think our proposal language doesn’t work, but won’t accept rewrites they themselves asked for, and won’t offer their own. Getting counter proposals in writing has been something the union has pushed for since the earliest days of bargaining, and now it appears we will get that.

Next Semester
This was our last meeting of the semester. We will resume after the break at a date and time to be determined. However, we do have one imminent event which you should keep in mind for January. On January 31st, the U of I Board of Trustees will return to UIC for another board meeting. Administration negotiators have squarely pointed to budget constraints as a reason they won’t offer more robust salary figures, and the Board controls that budget. You can do the math here on your own, we’re sure, but suffice it to say, the union will be looking at possible activities around the board meeting on January 31st. We figure the Trustees may need to be reminded that faculty aren’t going to accept raise figures that fall below inflation, while massive administrative bonuses and capital development are being funded without a care.

***

Until we win a fair contract, we will be issuing periodic updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and here on our website. We strongly encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. With your support, we can make UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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13 Dec #WeHeartUIC

UICUF WEHEARTUIC

Giving Faculty a Voice #WeHeartUIC
As this is an off-week from our contract bargaining efforts, we won’t be reporting on new progress in that realm, as such. However, our union of full-time faculty here at UIC doesn’t exist
solely to bargain and enforce contracts. At its core, UIC United Faculty is about the people who power the university with their labor, and critically, about letting their voices be heard.

In an effort to share these voices, and their stories, we’ve created a web series about how faculty at UIC show their love for their work, their students, and their university. We will be posting these stories under the hashtag #WeHeartUIC on our new UIC United Faculty YouTube channel. Here’s the first of those videos, from our esteemed colleagues in the Political Science department, Dick Simpson and Katharine Floros:

 

We expect to share more of these videos in the future, because working at Chicago’s premier public university is more than just a job. Faculty at UIC do more than just lecture. They create the learning environment for their students, and we think that the pride and passion they pour into their work speaks for itself!

If you enjoy the video, and want to see more, please subscribe to our YouTube channel so you’ll see new content as it is released. If you are a faculty member and want to tell us about how you Heart UIC, email us at UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com.

Last Bargaining Session of the Semester
The last bargaining session of the semester is coming up next Monday, 12/17, from 1-4pm at Student Center East, in the White Oak Room. Among other discussions, we will be hearing from more of faculty members, arguing for respect in the face of an administration that, so far, refuses to acknowledge the true value of their labor.

We hope you’ll join us in observing the proceedings. UIC faculty Heart UIC, and that commitment deserves recognition. A fair contract would certainly be a good start in that direction.

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Until we win a fair contract, we will be issuing periodic updates via email, FacebookTwitter, YouTube, and here on our website. We strongly encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. With your support, we can make UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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05 Dec Building Bargaining POWER

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Power in Context
Monday was a significant day in our campaign to gain a fair contract offer from U of I Administration, but not because they’ve given significant ground. No, the import of Monday’s activities, including the bargaining session itself, and the mass demonstration that immediately preceded it, is all about context rather than content.

Power in the Streets
UICUF and UIC GEO, both currently involved in contentious negotiations with U of I Administration, started the day off with a massive informational picket. Well over 100 members of both unions showed up despite inclement weather, and marched outside of Student Center East, chanting their demands for a #FairContractNow. Picketers continued chanting, reminding Administration as bargaining began, that “We Will Be Back!” even as 30 or so faculty peeled off to observe the session itself.

This action built off of the success of our demonstration at the U of I Board of Trustees meeting last month, and earlier marches on the boss decrying union busting tactics over the summer. It was one of our largest actions to date, and we intend to continue gathering strength and taking actions like this one until a fair contract has been signed.

Power in the Meeting Rooms
Faculty and Grads have not only been flying signs and chanting slogans. Union buttons and blues are becoming a more common sight in board and meeting rooms across the university. This trend was perfectly exemplified by the dozens of Faculty Senators wearing union colors in last week’s Senate meeting, showing solidarity with the bargaining effort.

Dozens more have shown up to each of our bargaining sessions as well. They’ve had the chance to observe first hand the way that U of I negotiators equivocate, prevaricate, and demand revisions to our proposals, only to leave those proposals entirely unacknowledged in their own counters. In fact, over the last 4 sessions during which we’ve invited faculty members to observe, we’ve had over 100 individuals take us up on the opportunity, and from the sound of it, they don’t much like what they’ve seen.

In this last bargaining session, Lisa Stolley, an English Lecturer, volunteered with testimony regarding U of I’s lackluster salary proposals thus far, speaking passionately on the need for respectable professional wages for NTT faculty:

“The amount I am paid is not commensurate with what I do for UIC,” she explained. “It is clear that UIC is investing in self-improvement. Buildings are going up at warp speed, and there will soon be a UIC affiliated law school. UIC is seeking to boost its reputation as a top rate research university, yet is unwilling to invest in what is, without question, one of its greatest assets – non-tenure track faculty… What is the justification for staffing hundreds of UIC classrooms with accomplished, graduate-degreed people, but refusing to pay them a salary that can sustain a modest standard of financial wellbeing?”

Lisa’s story resonates with many faculty. Even those who have tenure positions resoundingly indicated through union surveys their non-tenure track colleagues deserve much more for their contributions to the university, amid calls for a stronger salary program in general.

Power Responds to Power
In our latest session, as in so many sessions before, the U of I negotiating team has indicated broadly that they are unwilling to give serious consideration to most of our proposals. However, we’ve noted some curious behavior since the session prior. For starters, they came to the table this time, recanting their last salary proposal before we even had a chance to ask questions, or make a counter offer. They unilaterally replaced it with a slightly improved offer, though even the new offer is still completely insufficient. Noting the picketers outside the building at the time, we do not think they simply had a change of heart, deciding to become more generous overnight.

We’ve also heard reports that administrators are speaking in department meetings about the negotiations, asserting that the union is dragging its feet, holding back a potential agreement. Perhaps from administration’s perspective, that is so. After all, we’ve consistently reminded them that we’re not agreeing to an objective pay cut for the majority of our members. We’ve rejected their blanket abdication of responsibility from addressing the myriad other issues on the table. We’ve insisted on them discussing our proposals, and treating the bargaining process and  by extension, our membership, with respect.

If holding out over basic principles, like maintaining a professional standard of living for all faculty, and making real progress on working conditions, means we are dragging our feet, then perhaps we should dig in our heels a little more firmly. It’s clear that Administration is taking notice, after all, and that is the clearest signal of all that mounting pressure is having an effect.

Power Grows With Participation
As we all know, union power in negotiations isn’t about having the best arguments, the moral high ground, or the most objectively logical proposals. It is about the participation of union members, and their willingness to fight for what they deserve. Bargaining will resume on Monday, 12/17/18, 1-4pm, at Student Center East, White Oak Room. We hope to have even more members there than we have so far. Further, member testimony has been a powerful inspiration for faculty members, and clearly gives our Administration counterparts pause when as they continue trying to brush off our negotiating positions.

UIC United Faculty’s strength is only growing, and we show that strength every time we arrive at the bargaining table with a large team behind us. If you are able to attend bargaining on the 17th, or are willing to speak on any subject under consideration at the table, please email UICUFJeff@gmail.com.

*        *        *

Until we win a fair contract, we will be issuing periodic updates via email, facebook, twitter, and here on our website. We strongly encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. With your support, we can make UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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04 Dec UICUF Resolution in Support of UNO/Acero Charter School Teachers

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UICUF Resolution in Support of UNO/Acero Charter School Teachers

December 4, 2018

Whereas over 500 Chicago Teachers Union members at 15 UNO/Acero charter schools are on strike—the first strike of a charter operator in U.S. history; and

Whereas, as fellow public education professionals, we know the intimate link between the work that UNO/Acero teachers do with youth and our work in higher education – in that many of their students go on to become our students, and many of our graduates serve as teachers, staff and administrators in their schools; and

Whereas the disparity needs to be addressed between CTU members at UNO/Acero who work hundreds of hours more than CTU members in district schools, for an average of $13,000 per year less, and paraprofessionals—the backbone of our school communities—earn even less. All this while management’s take of public dollars went up more than $10 million this year—while spending $1 million LESS on classroom resources; and

Whereas management has refused any wage increase for underpaid paraprofessionals, insisted on class sizes of 32—four more than the target for CPS classrooms, refused to increase desperately short-staffed special education positions, refused teachers’ efforts to bring nurses into each school, refused to provide wrap-around services for students, and even refused to include sanctuary school language in the contract for their overwhelmingly Latinx students; and

Whereas we value all CTU teachers as strong partners in our mission to serve Chicago’s communities, and we recognize the high-quality work that they do, often under the most difficult circumstances, including conditions of instability, budget cutting and lack of a contract; and

Whereas the CTU has been a long-time, constant partner with UIC faculty, providing the resources, professional development, and advocacy needed for a strong and stable school district; and

Whereas we support the demands by UNO/Acero teachers for smaller class sizes, increased compensation, and for more resources going to help teachers in the classroom instead of UNO/Acero management; and

Whereas we know that good working conditions for teachers are good learning conditions for students; and

Whereas our UICUF members live in communities throughout the Chicago area, are parents, grandparents, and family members of CTU teachers and students, and have a vested interest in their lives and successful futures; and

Therefore be it resolved that we stand in full solidarity with the UNO/Acero teachers in their struggle for a fair contract and for the schools that all Chicago communities deserve.  We will do our best to support and attend solidarity meetings, rallies, and demonstrations, as well as walk their picket lines if they are forced to go out on strike; and

Be it finally resolved that we will do all we can to educate our members and our entire campus community, our neighborhoods, families and friends on the critical importance of the teachers’ fight, alongside of our own fight to defend state workers and save our state universities—An Injury to One is an Injury to All.

UIC United Faculty, Local #6456, AFT-IFT, AAUP, AFL-CIO

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29 Nov Giving Tuesday: Admin Asks Faculty to Give Up on Raises

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U of I Administration: Not in a Giving Mood
It’s been said that bargaining ideally is a give and take. No one gets everything they want, but everyone should walk away feeling like they’re getting something out of the agreement. U of I Administration seems to have missed the ‘give’ part of that equation this Giving Tuesday, however.

This past Tuesday, our bargaining team met once again with Administration, for the 12th time since beginning negotiations 23 weeks ago. We duly expected a response to the comprehensive proposal we’d handed them almost a month ago, and especially after over 100 union members demonstrated for fair contracts last week, we hoped it would at least be a decent starting point. What we got, however was not a counter proposal so much as a provocation.

As a reminder, UIC United Faculty has offered proposals that we feel are reasonable by any definition, including those asking for salary increases that catch up for lost growth during the budget impasse, and keep up with inflation over the life of the contract. We also proposed flexible solutions to critical areas of concern for faculty, including workload definitions, discipline procedures, use of student evaluations, and much more.

Administration’s response to these proposals left us hanging in almost every category, but here are the most concerning:

  • Year 1 salary increases that won’t even match inflation for 2018, let alone make up for years of lost salary growth
  • No guarantee of any merit salary increase beyond year 1
  • Failure to even acknowledge most non-economic proposals


That’s right, Administration appears to expect faculty to tighten their belts and agree to a contract that will leave almost everyone
objectively poorer than they were last year, even as they sign off on massive building projects and administrator bonuses.

Compounding this brazen approach to faculty compensation, the Administration team has offered nothing but indifference to concerns over workload policy, which we’ve proposed be handled as an issue of shared governance by departments. Administration’s taking on this stance, despite knowing that unilateral workload increases have already happened in one college and been attempted in several other departments, signals to us that they not only accept it, but expect to assign heavier loads in the future. And to round things out, regarding the vast majority of our remaining proposals, Administration has commented only to decree that they don’t think any of it belongs in a labor contract.

UICUF Demands a FAIR CONTRACT NOW!
UIC United Faculty did NOT come to the bargaining table 23 weeks ago to be handed a take-it-or-leave-it, status-quo contract. Even as a first offer, this counter-proposal is, at best, tone deaf to the needs of the faculty whose teaching, research, and service, power this university. As a union, it is our duty to fight for better salaries and working conditions in our contract, and this most certainly is not it.

UICUF plans on showing the Administration, and the public, what we think of this kind of behavior. If you are a faculty member at UIC, and you think you deserve better than stagnant salaries and indifference, now is the time to step up and take action. Here are a few of the ways you can join us in demanding a FAIR CONTRACT NOW:

  • Talk to your colleagues. Ask if they’re aware of what’s happening in negotiations.
  • Wear your union buttons and UICUF T-shirts on bargaining days
  • Join our informational picket with GEO next MONDAY, 12-2pm outside SCE
  • Attend bargaining next MONDAY, 2-5pm, SCE, Ft. Dearborn Room
  • Share your story about why merit raises and working conditions matter, at the bargaining table, and/or online


Please RSVP to
UICUFJeff@gmail.com if you can participate in any or all of the above activities!

*        *        *

Until we win a fair contract, we will be issuing periodic updates via email, facebook, twitter, and here on our website. We strongly encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. With your support, we can make UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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21 Nov UIC Unions Unite!

Faculty, grad students, nurses and service employees rally to show U of I’s Board what UIC Unions United looks like.

Faculty, grad students, nurses and service employees rally to show U of I’s Board what UIC Unions United looks like.


Quiet Strength
Over 100 members from four campus unions joined together in protest at U of I’s Board of Trustees meeting last Thursday. UIC UF, GEO, INA, and SEIU
— representing more than 8,000 UIC workers — all came together in this unprecedented display of solidarity, to demonstrate against Rauner-Era union busting tactics being perpetuated by U of I’s administration.

That union busting mentality has been the rule for many years, but is especially manifest now, in the form of brazen attacks on dues deduction post-Janus, and an equally brazen attitude toward contract negotiations. Much of the institutional rigor directed against U of I system unions can be traced back to a board with a majority of members appointed by a Governor who actively campaigned on his mission to break public sector unions. Fortunately for everyone working for the state of Illinois, Governor Rauner’s days in office are now numbered. UIC’s Unions United, along with allies like recently elected Cook County Commissioner Alma Anaya, want to remind the U of I’s Board of Trustees, and their representatives in university administration, that we will soon have a new, pro-union governor.

Watch the video here: https://www.facebook.com/UICUF/posts/2024817617561689

Payroll Deduction is NOT Optional
Back in July, payroll deductions for the dozens of various unions at UIC were processed as usual, except this time things were different.

The Janus decision had just been released, negating prior requirements to collect fair share fees from non-union members in the bargaining unit while maintaining dues deduction for signed members. Accordingly, unions across the university sprung into action to identify all union members who should be paying dues. We did this in good faith after months of anticipation and seemingly constructive communication between the unions involved and U of I Labor Relations. Make no mistake, U of I was not taken by surprise by the Janus decision, and was given ample opportunity to ensure accurate continuity of dues deduction for signed union members.

So it was a shock, though perhaps not a surprise, to find that on July 15th UIC payroll chose (or was directed) to ignore the member verifications they were being emphatically offered by the university’s unions, and cut payroll deductions in an arbitrary and opaque fashion. Though we can’t speak to the damage done to all unions in the system, the four unions representing Faculty, Grad Employees, Nurses and Service Employees, woke on July 15th to find their member roles light by hundreds of workers and their treasuries short thousands or tens of thousands of dollars in some cases. Let’s be clear, we are talking about signed union members, not fair-share fee payers here.

But dues deduction is not a game. It is not optional. It is not subject to whim or interpretation. It is a right protected by law, and it is the duty of employers to honor that right by executing deductions accurately and faithfully. U of I made a mockery of this responsibility in July, and has compounded their intransigence by refusing to discuss that failure and its implications in a meaningful way ever since.

UIC Unions United was formed initially to respond to this outrageous behavior, and despite attempts to engage administration on these issues, no movement has been seen. Therefore, all four unions have submitted filings of Unfair Labor Practices by U of I’s Board of Trustees and its agents. Grievances pursuant to U of I’s breach of contract in these matters are also ongoing, and will be pursued vigorously by the unions involved.

A Bad Bargain
Above and beyond U of I’s willful malfeasance in regard to dues deduction, our unions have been subject to less-than-collegial attitudes and tactics by administration at the bargaining table. In the most egregious case, the university’s hospital administration has railroaded the Licensed Practical Nurses at UIC and associated clinics with some of the most hostile contract language we have seen in decades.

In response, the LPN’s went on strike last Thursday, and remained on strike until just yesterday, when the hospital system’s CEO agreed to step in and restore balance to the contract negotiations. All university unions are watching these proceedings with interest. We sincerely hope that U of I negotiators will not use similar tactics in the future, because work stoppages are by no means off the table for any of the unions currently bargaining contracts.

Working Towards a Brighter Future
While we can’t expect things to change overnight, the ouster of anti-union political leaders, and the defeat of their agendas for public sector unions, is a cause for hope. However, politicians like Governor Elect JB Pritzker, and their appointees, will need to be held accountable for those hopes to become reality. Moreover, U of I has given little to no sign of changing course on how they treat unions on their own campuses, at least not without a fight. That means that the work goes on, until all of our unions have won fair contracts, and the respect we deserve.

UICUF’s contract negotiations will resume immediately after the Thanksgiving holidays, and we want to encourage everyone who is able, to attend the next bargaining session on Tuesday, Nov. 27, 10am-1pm, at Student Center East, Room 603. It is one excellent way to learn more about how the union works, and what we are facing when we meet with administration face-to-face. Even if you can’t be there, we encourage you to wear your union t-shirts and pins in solidarity with our bargaining team on Tuesday.

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Until we win a fair contract, we will be issuing periodic updates via email, facebook, twitter, and here on our website. We strongly encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. With your support, we can make UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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View additional videos, recordings and write-ups of the Board of Trustees action last Thursday:

Silent Protest and Press Conference in Pictures
Union Press Release
Radio Interview – Back on the Beat w/Dick Kay

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15 Nov Press Release: UIC Unions Demand Board End Rauner-Era Union Busting Tactics

Members of 4 UIC Unions rally against Rauner-Era union busting tactics at the Board of Trustees meeting in Chicago.

Members of 4 UIC Unions rally against Rauner-Era union busting tactics at the Board of Trustees meeting in Chicago.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 15, 2018

CONTACT:
Jeff Schuhrke
Media Liaison
847-721-5898
jeffschuhrke@gmail.com

UIC Unions United Coalition Protests Labor Law Violations and Demands Fair Contracts

In a powerful display of labor unity, this morning scores of UIC workers from four campus unions gathered at the University of Illinois Board of Trustees meeting to protest the University’s recent labor law violations and to demand fair contracts.

Since the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision this summer, the University administration has illegally attempted to implement new dues deduction processes, while simultaneously trying to impose second-rate contracts on the Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs), faculty, and graduate student workers. Thirty-four LPNs from the UI Hospital began an indefinite strike this morning to protest these unfair labor practices and to demand a fair contract.

Following Bruce Rauner’s overwhelming defeat in last week’s election, the unions are calling on the University Board of Trustees to abandon its Rauner-era anti-union, anti-worker agenda.

Members of the Illinois Nurses Association (INA), SEIU Local 73, UIC United Faculty, and the UIC Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) entered the University Board of Trustees meeting this morning and silently held up signs demanding living wages, more workplace protections, and an end to illegal union busting.

At a press conference immediately after this silent protest, leaders and activists from all four unions spoke.

“Everyone knows that 34 primarily women of color provide some of the most hands-on direct patient care to some of the most impoverished communities in Chicago,” said Ramona Morales of the INA. “However, UIH has decided to show blatant disrespect to us and the communities we serve by demanding we accept a second-class contract with watered-down or non-existent protections.” Morales is an LPN in Outpatient Dialysis, has worked at UI Health for 18 years, and is on strike.

“UIC United Faculty stands in solidarity today with this union coalition because we are committed to making UIC an even better place to work and learn,” explained Janet Smith, president of United Faculty. “However, to do that, we believe the Board of Trustees needs to lead in changing the anti-union culture in the UI system. Union members should not have to strike like the LPNs are today, like UIUC grad students had to last spring and like faculty in Springfield the year before, in order to get a fair contract. We know there is a better way. “

“UIC wouldn’t function without the labor of grad workers, yet our baseline salary is only $18,000 and the University requires us to pay up to $2,000 in annual fees,” said Jeff Schuhrke, co-president of the GEO. “That’s over ten percent of our income going right back into the employer’s pocket. We shouldn’t have to pay to work here. In our contract negotiations, we’re demanding substantial raises and fee waivers. But instead of listening, the UIC administration is trying to undermine our collective bargaining rights.”

“UIC’s attempts to unilaterally impose a new system for payroll deductions and revocations without consultation from the campus unions feels a lot like a Rauner move. Raunerism is a thing of the past,” said SEIU Local 73 president Dian Palmer. “We’re here to say, ‘UIC get with the program and stop stealing money from unions by immediately correcting payroll codings, cease & desist from improperly honoring revocation requests made directly to the employer!’”

GEO, United Faculty, and the LPNs have been in contract negotiations with the University for the past several months. The bargaining units represented by SEIU Local 73, including clerical, maintenance, technical, and civil service workers, will begin contract negotiations next year.

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14 Nov A Window Into A Union Victory

UIC faculty's mud covered view from an office inside University Hall.

UIC faculty’s mud covered view from an office inside University Hall.

Everyday Unionism
When people think of unions, they often associate them with picket lines, protests, and occasionally major lawsuits. To some extent, that makes sense, as those are indeed some of the strongest actions a union can take to ensure its members’ needs are being taken seriously. But that image belies the true, day-to-day realities of having a union presence in your workplace.

First and foremost, a union is a community. In particular, it is a community that allows its members to discuss shared workplace issues, and address them as a united group, rather than as isolated individuals. When union members act together, the results usually are not that flashy, but they are often far more effective than if people act on their own.

That’s why it is even more important to share the stories of everyday union victories in the workplace. Most labor actions won’t change the world overnight, but they very well might protect you from unsafe working conditions, or ensure that your boss thinks twice about making inappropriate comments in a staff meeting.

A Crumbling Facade
To highlight the fact that workers get taken more seriously when working together as a union, we have only to look back to a recent example: fallout from construction being done at University Hall.

If you’ve been around UIC lately, you may have noticed some construction going on. While construction on a university campus may be common, and necessary, it can still create major disruptions in the lives of faculty and students, especially when those faculty and students aren’t consulted or listened to.

In this case, the ongoing construction has caused a range of problems, from dust and particulate filling offices, to unbearable fumes, to major leaks in the facade which allowed muddy water to flow in, leaving stains and rot in its wake. The resulting mess was not only an eyesore, but a potential safety hazard. Yet when individual faculty complained, or asked the university how things would be cleaned up in the aftermath, UIC officials seemed to offer few assurances.

Yann Robert, an Assistant Professor working in University Hall, describes the issue. “When I contacted people in the Operations and Maintenance Office in the Fall of 2017 about a leak in my office that left streaks of mud on my windows, walls, and floor, I received vague answers about budgeting that left me unsure that the leak would ever be fixed, let alone the windows washed.”

A Voice The Boss Couldn’t Ignore
After hearing this story, and many others over the course of the construction, UIC United Faculty began to take action. The rumbling began at the grassroots, with members raising the alarm, and inviting other colleagues to share their stories. Before long, it was quite clear that this problem was widespread and in some cases quite serious.

When approached by the union with the collected testimony of so many faculty behind them, UIC officials changed their tune. They were immediately more helpful and responsive, saying they would take action to remedy the situation. And to some extent, at least, that’s what happened. With the union facilitating the identification of problem areas, the fumes and much of the rot from the leaks was, in fact, dealt with expediently.

“This incident showed that faculty consistently have the university’s best interest in mind, and that we are always ready to work collegially, respectfully, and with civility with our counterparts on the other side,” explained Professor Robert Johnston, our UICUF Chief Steward. “This episode happily demonstrated–despite what we have seen so often at the negotiating table and in consideration of grievances–that some administrators are willing to move toward such a productive partnership.”

Keeping Them Honest
Unfortunately, despite an initial good start to the work, as problems continued to mount, and the most serious issues were addressed, administration’s desire to follow through seemed to once again slacken. In particular, the administration appeared to be unconcerned about finalizing repairs of leaks, and were especially dismissive of cleaning up the mess they’d left behind.

Repeated demands for answers, both by individuals and the union, were met with unhelpful commentary about how the contractors would be responsible for cleanup, or how the impact of the leaks was minor and limited to small sections of the building. The accompanying reassurances by administration, that issues would be dealt with, were largely devoid of critical details, leaving some faculty feeling that UIC Administration wasn’t taking the remaining concerns seriously. UIC officials ignored further inquiries for weeks.

Only after union representatives actually accompanied inspectors to document the degraded working conditions caused by the construction, did things really change. In a shocking coincidence, days later, UIC officials emailed those working in University Hall to assure them that cleaning was being scheduled, and to give detailed instructions on how to set up work for individual offices.

The union intends to keep a close eye on how that cleaning proceeds, but for now at least, members feel vindicated. “When the union asked that soiled windows be cleaned throughout UH, the answer was far more positive,” Yann Robert tells us. “I leave everyone to reach their own conclusions about the benefits of a united voice looking out for the interest of the faculty.”

An Opportunity to Get Involved
As you can see, many things can be accomplished with the simple persistence and creativity of union members working together. But sometimes bigger efforts ARE necessary.

Tomorrow is one of those times. Given the overall slow progress of contract negotiations so far, we feel compelled to raise our concerns in front of a larger audience. Tomorrow, November 15th, the U of I Board of Trustees will be at Student Center West for one of their rare Chicago meetings. We, alongside our fellow UIC unions, will hold a rally and press conference to show the Board that we will not stand by and be railroaded with a take-it-or-leave-it contract. We will also be joining our fellow workers in the Licensed Practical Nurses bargaining unit of the Illinois Nurses Association, who will be going on strike for their own contract the same day.

We will gather in the south lobby of Student Center West at 9:30am, and will hold a press conference later that morning. We highly encourage our members and allies to attend one or both of these events tomorrow. If you are able to join us, please RSVP to UICUFJeff@gmail.com.

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Until we win a fair contract, we will be issuing periodic updates via email, facebook, twitter, and here on our website. We strongly encourage everyone to like and follow us on social media. With your support, we can make UIC an even better place to work and learn!

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