21 Mar Faculty Bargaining Continues Amid Grad Worker Strike
- Faculty win concessions at the table as grad strike pressure mounts, mediation looms
- Admin’s financial offers remain disappointing, as does the reasoning behind them
- UICUF members increasingly support striking, authorization vote now being considered
- Bargaining Session #20: Observe/caucus with our team, 2-5pm, 3/26, @SCE, Rm 603
Wins at the Table
In our 20th bargaining session the administration brought us counter positions that actually showed movement on their side! As a result, we were able to sign two more tentative agreements and a side letter that include:
- Course loads and class sizes to be defined through shared governance at the department/program level
- Commitments to provide all faculty with appropriate office space
- Commitments to expanded access to lactation rooms and gender neutral bathrooms
- Reporting on implementation of safety provisions related to the new evening class schedule
Strengthening shared governance has been a central issue for us this year, and contractually codifying its role in defining workloads is a major milestone. We believe this will protect faculty from unilateral, uncompensated workload increases because they must now be included in such decisions.
An “Interesting” Financial Offer
Admin negotiators also moved slightly on money articles. While there was no movement from their merit pool (2%, 1.5%, 1.5%), they did up their offer by 1% on Compression/Equity pools over the life of the contract. However, they also invited our team to reconsider separating this CE pool from Market/Retention. Of course to change what they have offered us would be regressive bargaining (replacing a previous offer with something less favorable) so it was just a discussion, and an interesting one in which the Admin argued that 1) some faculty don’t deserve raises, and 2) that compression/equity issues could be completely addressed within a year.
What this suggests is that some faculty deserve to get poorer, and that an intrinsically uneven system of merit raises won’t continue to produce equity or compression issues over time. Most faculty agree that merit is important, but the Compression/Equity pool is meant to address its inherent shortcomings. Regardless, UICUF believes the best tool for retention is a consistently robust merit pool, which currently sits below inflation figures, and which admin so far has refused to grow.
Movement Amid Growing Pressure is No Coincidence
These agreements aren’t gifts. They are the result of over 9 months of negotiations, and increasing pressure on administration to drop their uncooperative stance with both faculty and grad workers. Grads began their indefinite strike Tuesday morning, hours before this session, and mediation for our negotiations will begin next week. While faculty and grad negotiations aren’t technically related, the mutual support our unions have demonstrated has clearly had an effect at the bargaining table.
Mediation and Strike Authorization
Our next bargaining session will be conducted through a federal mediator. This is a step that indicates the process is not yielding satisfactory results for either side. Despite progress at the table this week, it did not come without pressure including our refusal to bargain against ourselves. While we hope mediation will help us mutually move toward a comprehensive agreement, we are at the point where we must consider the possibility of more direct action to win a fair contract.
Over the last three weeks, union members have been discussing the negotiations one-on-one with each other. What we have heard overwhelmingly indicates members would authorize a strike if a vote were called. For most, it is believed that this may be the only way to move the administration toward agreement on a fair and just contract.
To this end, UICUF is moving toward holding a strike authorization vote the week after spring break. A strike authorization vote is the first step toward being able to strike, but does not guarantee a strike will happen. Once a strike has been authorized through a vote by the membership, it is up to the bargaining team to decide whether to call it based on what is happening at the table. Authorizing a strike is one of the strongest tools union members have to exert pressure on management at the bargaining table, and it is crucial for every member to vote so that the results are an accurate representation of what the full membership wants. Members and non-members who want to weigh in or learn more, are encouraged to reach out to your College Rep or our Executive Board.
Until we win a fair contract, we will be issuing regular updates via email, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and here on our website. We 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!