Last week, we released initial guidance to faculty on how to conduct yourselves during a potential grad worker strike. Naturally there were many follow-up questions, so here is an FAQ that we hope will help answer some of them. Please email UICUnitedFaculty@gmail.com if you have questions beyond what is covered here!
How should I discuss the strike with my GA’s/TA’s?
While some contact on the subject of the strike may be unavoidable, we strongly recommend that faculty not discuss the strike with their TA’s/Ga’s. It is unlawful to encourage or discourage participation in union activities (including membership, striking and other actions), and likewise is unlawful to inquire about individual grad workers’ intentions to participate. Finally, it’s unlawful to surveil or record the names of grad workers participating in union activities.
Given these realities, it is best to avoid even the appearance of interference, by simply not engaging in discussions of the strike with grad workers where possible. Grad workers who seek your input or ask specific questions about the strike should be directed to contact UIC GEO and/or their department administrators.
When is it okay to cross a picket line?
While it is permissible to enter a facility when pickets are not active UICUF urges faculty to honor active grad worker pickets unless absolutely unavoidable. This includes crossing lines to access your own office or lab. You should follow your own department/college guidelines to relocate or reschedule classes, exams, etc. to times or locations not being picketed, including online. This may require some advanced planning, and/or coordination with your department office.
If crossing a picket line is unavoidable, faculty should practice solidarity as best they can, by positively engaging with/marching with picketers before entering a picketed building, and informing them why you have to cross their line.
Can I be asked to report on grad worker strike participation?
Recording or reporting strike participation is a clear violation of grad workers’ rights to participate in a labor action free from coercion or intimidation. Such actions will likely be viewed as unfair labor practices by UIC GEO, and therefore are likely to be litigated accordingly. We have also submitted a demand to bargain over the change in working conditions. UICUF does not view a directive to record or report on strike participation as legally enforceable at this time. If you are asked to record or report on strike participation, inform UICUF immediately.
Can an Administrator ask if I Rescheduled/Relocated/Cancelled Class Because of the Strike?
No, faculty are not obligated to report why you altered your class schedule. The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act prohibits an employer from interfering, restraining or coercing employees in their exercise of rights under the act 115 ILCS 5/14(a)(1).
Asking whether an employee cancelled their class in solidarity with another strike (as opposed to because of illness, weather, poor attendance, or any other reason) is an unfair labor practice. Whatever procedure was already in place for reporting class cancellation has to stand, they cannot create a new procedure for reporting class cancellation because of the strike.
Can grad workers cover classes if there is no active picket at that time/location?
Grad workers can choose to participate in the strike, or not, at their sole discretion, regardless of picket times/locations. The work stoppage, however, is not limited to when pickets are active. Faculty should not, therefore, ask grad workers to work around the picket, or ask whether grad workers intend to withhold their labor at any time while the strike is in effect.
Do I have to cover my grad workers’ classes, grading, etc. until the strike ends?
We advise that faculty should not voluntarily cover work that would otherwise be assigned to TA’s/GA’s, so long as it does not violate department/college policies. Should department/college policy require you to cover certain work, or if you are directly ordered to do so by an administrator, we recommend that you comply within the limit of the requirement, and report it to UICUF immediately. This will help us offer guidance to colleagues in similar situations, or begin the process of pushing back if such direction is inappropriate.