Faculty at School of the Art Institute of Chicago asks for union recognition

The workers say that a “strong majority” of their group wants to affiliate with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

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Staffers at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago rally Wednesday. Faculty members seek union representation for 600 lecturers and adjuncts.

Council 31/American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees

Instructors at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, citing strong support for unionizing, Wednesday demanded the school’s leadership recognize them as members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The employees issued their demand in a letter to school President Elissa Tenny. “We can confirm that a strong majority of members of our bargaining unit have signed cards, and we want to be represented by Council 31” of AFSCME, the letter said.

The staff revealed the letter during a rally on the steps of the Art Institute. It asked Tenny to respond by Tuesday.

The proposed union would include about 600 lecturers and adjuncts at the school. At the Art Institute itself, about 600 staff members already are part of Council 31.

The two groups would form a “wall-to-wall union” to represent people who are behind the scenes and under-compensated but who contribute to the museum’s world-class reputation, the school’s employees said.

The workers are asking their employer to acknowledge that most staffers support unionizing. They provided no numbers. Employers seldom go along with voluntary recognition, thus forcing a union certification election run by the National Labor Relations Board.

Bree Witt, communications director at the school, said in an email, “As we shared with part-time faculty in May, this is a choice part-time faculty will make individually and collectively. If a union is voted in, we look forward to working with the bargaining team.” Witt did not answer a question about whether managers would recognize the Council 31 affiliation, avoiding a union election.

Anders Lindall, spokesman for Council 31, has said the school describes the adjuncts and lecturers as part-time employees, but many carry full course loads and put in full-time hours.

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