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Message 9/14/11

Message from the Provost – Faculty Unionization Efforts

Dear Colleagues,

I write with a brief update regarding faculty unionization efforts at UIC.

The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board is scheduled to meet tomorrow and its agenda includes the proposed UIC United Faculty union. Last April, the union submitted a petition to the IELRB to be certified to represent a bargaining unit combining both tenure-system and non-tenure system faculty at UIC (excluding the Colleges of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy) holding appointments of greater than 50 percent. In July, an administrative law judge issued a recommended decision that the union be certified as the exclusive representative of this combined bargaining unit. The university filed what are called exceptions to the recommended decision, requesting, based on Illinois law, that there be two separate bargaining units one for tenure-system faculty and a separate unit for non-tenure system faculty.

We don't know exactly when the IELRB will issue its decision following Thursday's meeting but under Illinois law, either party would have the right to appeal an adverse ruling to the Illinois Appellate Court.

The university believes that Illinois law is clear that the tenure system and non-tenure system faculty must be in separate bargaining units. Non-tenure system faculty formerly were mentioned in the laws defining appropriate university bargaining units, but in 2003 the General Assembly amended the statute and removed the reference to non-tenure system faculty. This legislation also voided any earlier rules, decisions, or regulations to the contrary.

It has been our consistent position that the law not only is clear, but correct. A university's tenured and tenure-track faculty have unique rights, roles and responsibilities, and this is why there must be separate bargaining units. We are not trying to deprive faculty of the right to organize but rather want to see the bargaining units align with the type of faculty they would represent.

While it has not been my practice to respond to every communication from the union in every forum, I have taken note of a few recent postings which in my view misrepresent the role that a faculty union might play at UIC. Issues relating to shared governance are not mandatory subjects of bargaining. The collective bargaining statutes in Illinois provide that employers are not required to bargain over matters of inherent managerial policy, including budget, organizational structure, and selection and direction of employees. Instead, the law requires negotiation of wages, hours and conditions of employment for members of the bargaining unit.

As this legal process moves forward, we can expect discussion of the issues to take on new intensity and draw greater interest from parties both on and off-campus, designed to pressure university leaders to acquiesce to the union's wishes for the combined bargaining unit. I want to remind you of information that was shared previously with supervisors, Supervisor Conduct during an Organizing Campaign or Prior to Union Election/Certification. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Human Resources.

Our interest is in creating the best possible workplace climate and in adhering to state statutes regarding the formation of appropriate bargaining units.  We are committed to working with all of our faculty and staff toward our shared goals of a stronger UIC and providing the best possible educational, research and clinical care environment for our students, patients and communities we so proudly serve.

Sincerely,

Lon S. Kaufman
Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost