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Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Message 3/7/2011

Faculty Union Organizing Activities/Comment from President Emeritus James J. Stukel

Dear Colleagues,

In response to my e-mail of March 3 regarding Faculty Union Organizing Activities, I received a note from President Emeritus James J. Stukel, which I wanted to share with you.

Sincerely,

Jerry L. Bauman
Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost


March 7, 2011

Dear Jerry,

Thank you for bringing me up to date on the current situation at the UIC campus with regards to your faculty labor discussions.

During my tenure at UIC, the vision for the campus was to join the elite group of higher education institutions in the United States.  In plotting a strategy to reach this goal, we looked to other top-tier institutions for guidance.  A significant attribute shared by the vast majority of these institutions is a non-unionized faculty.  In my experience, the best faculty are not drawn to institutions with unionized faculty.  They are comfortable competing at the national and international level and do not want to be constrained by union issues.  In reading the literature sent by pro-union faculty, only two significant institutions were cited:  Rutgers and University of Florida.  This is a very small number, compared to the number of elite institutions in the U.S.  Both of these institutions had elite status before they unionized.  Given this fact, it is highly unlikely that UIC will become an elite institution if the faculty becomes unionized.  Without excellent faculty, you cannot have an elite educational institution.

One of the strengths of UIC during my tenure was the role of faculty in shared governance.  The cardinal rule guiding the faculty-administration relationship was that no misleading information would be presented by either side to gain an advantage in our discussions.  What is disturbing in reviewing information recently sent to the faculty about the proposed unionization was the misleading nature of it.  The primary issues that are negotiable in a collective bargaining agreement are wages, hours and conditions of employment.  Contrary to the circulated literature, collective bargaining members would have no direct impact on pension rights, administrative reorganization, faculty size, or hiring decisions.  Collective bargaining is not shared governance in any traditional context.

With regard to salary, during my tenure we also experienced difficult economic conditions.  During these periods, certain faculty proposed forming a union to enhance salaries.  They cited statistics showing larger salary increases on a percentage basis in unionized universities in Illinois compared with UIC.  The statistics presented were for a short period of time.  In spite of these short term gains, however, UIC salaries remained higher over the longer term than those at the unionized institutions.

In my view, unionization is not the path to creating an elite university.  Rather, it is an impediment.

Respectfully,

James J. Stukel
Professor Emeritus, UIC, UIUC
Chancellor Emeritus, UIC       
President Emeritus, University of Illinois