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Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Message 3/4/2011

Faculty Union Organizing Activities Frequently Asked Questions

To: All Faculty
Re:  Faculty Union Organizing Activities Frequently Asked Questions

We have been contacted by departments who have questions about union organizing activities and assertions made by the labor union soliciting the UIC faculty to join the "UIC United Faculty"--American Federation of Teachers (AFT)/Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT)/American Association of University Professor (AAUP).  Many questions and concerns have been raised regarding such issues as whether signing an indication of support can bring in the union without a secret-ballot election, the parameters of a potential bargaining unit splitting the east and west side colleges, visits to the workplace for solicitation, and what responses by administrators and department heads/chairs are appropriate and permitted.

In response to these concerns, below are frequently asked questions regarding potential unionization of faculty at UIC.

This campus has had labor contracts with unions for decades.  We maintain good relations with many different employee unions.  We currently have 19 bargaining units of civil service employees represented by various labor unions and the teaching and graduate assistants are represented by the GEO, affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers/Illinois Federation of Teachers.  If a union is selected, we will of course fulfill bargaining obligations as we do with all of the other unions we deal with.

However, I am concerned that having a labor union representing the faculty may undermine our efforts to promote excellence and may divide the faculty on the east and west sides of the campus.  These are challenging times for the UIC campus. Authorizing a union to represent the faculty will not reduce but rather increase these challenges.  There are many indirect costs resulting from a unionized faculty, including the time and expense of collective bargaining, strike planning and prevention, and contract administration. These extra costs will inevitably divert more resources away from teaching and research.

There also is a direct cost to the faculty, each of whom would have to pay union dues or "fair share" fees for the services to be provided by the union. Another significant consequence is the loss of flexibility of department heads and other administrators, who would no longer be allowed to deal directly with faculty on matters of pay, benefits and working conditions. Instead, discussions concerning pay, benefits and working conditions would be handled through negotiations between University labor relations officials with faculty union representatives.

Assertions that forming a union will somehow improve the faculty's role in governance are also inaccurate. The subjects of collective bargaining are wages, hours and working conditions - not shared governance, educational policies or program initiatives. In short, I encourage faculty to look at unionization carefully and separate fact from fiction.


1)      If faculty at UIC wish to select or authorize a union to represent them for collective bargaining, would all faculty at UIC be included in a single bargaining unit?

A:  No.  Section 7 of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act states that the sole appropriate bargaining unit for tenured and tenure-track academic faculty at each campus of the University of Illinois shall be a unit that is comprised of non-supervisory academic faculty employed more than half-time; and that includes all tenured and tenure-track faculty with the exception of the College of Medicine, the College of Pharmacy, and the College of Dentistry.  115 ILCS 5/7

2)      Does the law preclude faculty in east and west side colleges from being in the same bargaining unit?

A:  Yes.  Medical, Dentistry and Pharmacy faculty must have separate bargaining units from other tenure system faculty.

3)      Do faculty members have the right to vote in an election before a union is certified?

A:  Not necessarily.  Illinois law allows for certification of a union through either an election or by a "card check" procedure whereby a union demonstrates to the Labor Board that it has a "majority interest" of employees in the proposed bargaining unit.  Such majority interest may be shown by the union producing dues deduction authorization forms or similar documents signed by a majority of employees in the proposed bargaining unit.

4)      Are faculty "voting" for a union if they sign union authorization cards?

A:  Yes, if a union chooses to submit such cards as proof of support for the certification of a union without an election.  Illinois law permits unions to be certified by the Labor Board based on verification that more than 50 percent of bargaining unit members have signed such union authorization cards.

5)      What if a faculty member misunderstood or wishes to revoke a union authorization card he/she previously signed?

A:  Questions about union authorization processes and rights of employees should be directed to the Public Information Officer at the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board at 312-793-3170.

6)      Which Illinois public universities currently have unions representing faculty for collective bargaining purposes?

A:  According to an AFT-Wisconsin website, the universities in Illinois with unions representing faculty include Chicago State, Eastern Illinois, Governors' State, Northern Illinois, Northeastern Illinois and Southern Illinois - Carbondale. It should be noted that the average faculty salaries at all of these universities are lower than the average faculty salaries at UIC.  Few top research universities in this country have bargaining representatives for their faculty.

7)      Faculty have sustained several years of pay freezes and furloughs. Would a union be effective in negotiating pay increases and avoiding future furloughs?

A:  Clearly, these would be subjects of bargaining, but it should be emphasized that President Hogan has indicated that he strongly opposes future furloughs and that it is a priority to implement pay increases for FY 12 which begins July 1, 2011.

8)      Would collective bargaining help protect faculty's current pension rights?

A:  Not necessarily. Benefits under the State Universities Retirement System are actually set by State Statute and are not subjects of negotiations in any of the University's collective bargaining contracts. In fact, the University would have no authority to negotiate alternations or guarantees concerning the statutory pension plan.

9)      It has been asserted that unionizing can effectively reclaim faculty voice in university governance?  Are governance roles negotiable?

A:  No.  The subjects of collective bargaining are wages, hours and conditions of employment.  Matters of governance are not a mandatory subject of bargaining. A union would have no right to step into current roles played by the Campus Senate.  Instead, collective bargaining is a process of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement describing the wages, hours and working conditions for employees in the bargaining unit.

10)     Will collective bargaining impair current roles and relationships between faculty and department heads and other administrators?

A:  Yes.  The University administration has a duty to deal exclusively with a union concerning decisions pertaining to pay, hours and working conditions.  In other words, administrators would no longer be able to have direct interactions with individual faculty on these subjects, unless a union representative is present and participates at such interactions.

11)     What expenses would a faculty member incur by having a union representative?

A:  Illinois law permits negotiation of "fair share" clauses, which require employees to pay the equivalent of union dues for the cost of services rendered by the union.  115 ILCS 5/11 The UIC United Faculty has indicated that its union dues may amount to 1-2 percent of a faculty member's salary.

12)     If a union calls for a strike, must all bargaining unit members participate?

A:  No, but strikes and other union concerted activities may disrupt instruction and other activities, and participants could be subject to loss of pay.



1)         Do faculty who have already signed a union authorization card have an option to revoke it?

A:        Employees who have questions about this should contact the Public Information Officer of the Educational Labor Relations Board (312-793-3170). Based on our understanding of the law, employees can revoke cards by notifying the Union in writing of their decision to revoke their cards and request that the cards be returned to them.  If employees decide to revoke and withdraw their cards, it should be done before any representation petition is filed with the Labor Board.  If such a written revocation and request is submitted to Union, employees should sign and date the request and keep a copy for their records.

2)         Are non-tenurable appointments such as lecturers eligible to be included in a bargaining unit with tenure system faculty?

A:        Illinois law specifies the bargaining units for faculty at the University of Illinois and does not contemplate that tenure-system faculty would be combined with non-tenurable faculty.  Here is what Section 7(a) of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act states.

The sole appropriate bargaining unit for tenured and tenure track academic faculty at each campus of the University of Illinois shall be a unit that is comprised of non supervisory academic faculty employed more than half time and that includes all tenured and tenure track faculty of that University campus employed by the board of trustees in all of the campus's undergraduate, graduate, and professional schools and degree and non degree programs (with the exception of the college of medicine, the college of pharmacy, the college of dentistry, the college of law, and the college of veterinary medicine, each of which shall have its own separate unit), regardless of current or historical representation rights or patterns or the application of any other factors. Any decision, rule, or regulation promulgated by the Board to the contrary shall be null and void.

3)         Would chairs and heads of departments be included in a faculty bargaining unit?

A:        No. The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act excludes supervisory, managerial and confidential employees from the definition of educational employees who are eligible to collectively bargain.  It will be the position of the University that chairs and heads would be excluded from any faculty bargaining unit because they exercise supervisory, managerial and confidential job responsibilities.

4)         Are departments required to allow unions to solicit faculty in University facilities or speak at departmental meetings?

A:        No. Union officials are not allowed to disrupt or interfere with faculty performing their normal work activities.  This does not preclude making space available for meetings involving union officials in the same manner as any other requests for meeting rooms for non-departmental activities or purposes.


1)          What are the consequences if the IFT becomes the collective bargaining representative of UIC’s faculty?

Costs:  The IFT’s web site for UIC suggests that union dues will likely be set at 2% of gross salary. A faculty member earning $80,000 would be paying $1,600 annually to the union. An 800 member bargaining unit at UIC could produce over $1,000,000 annually for the IFT.

Strikes:  Under Illinois law, faculty who are in a bargaining unit at a public university have the right to strike. Strikes, whereby employees withhold services (and lose pay), are a union’s ultimate method of exerting pressure on management to accept its demands. In 2004, an IFT local of Northeastern Illinois University’s faculty was on strike for 3 weeks before a contract settlement was reached. On April 1, 2011, that same local rejected the University’s latest offer, and faculty members are again talking about a strike.

Loss of Individuality:  Unions are the “exclusive representative” for bargaining unit employees, and represent everyone in the bargaining unit collectively. This precludes individual faculty members from negotiating individual pay arrangements with their colleges/deans that take into account their unique circumstances. University labor relations representatives must present proposals to, and secure the agreement of, union officials before altering wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment for anyone in the bargaining unit.

Finality of decision to have a union represent the faculty:  Once the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board declares IFT to be the exclusive bargaining representative of the faculty, the union is authorized to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement for the employees in the bargaining unit. Once a contract is agreed upon, decertification is barred during the life of the contract. It is extremely rare for a union to be decertified once the first collective bargaining agreement has been negotiated

2)         Who does the IFT currently represent and how are they governed?

The Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) is a labor union who represents employees primarily in K-12 school systems. The IFT is made up of more than 200 local unions throughout Illinois. The IFT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

The IFT is governed by elected leaders, including a president, executive vice president, secretary-treasurer and 40 vice presidents. K-12 union locals dominate the IFT leadership. The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is the largest IFT local and the President of Chicago Teachers Union, Karen Lewis, is the Executive VP of IFT. The President of the IFT, Daniel Montgomery, is from the North Suburban Teachers Union K-12.