21 Nov UIC Unions Unite!
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!
View additional videos, recordings and write-ups of the Board of Trustees action last Thursday: