UIC faculty union authorizes strike

Leaders with the UIC United Faculty union said 74% of their nearly 900 members supported a strike. A walkout date has not been announced.

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Students walk through campus at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Students walk through campus at the University of Illinois Chicago.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file photo

Faculty members at the University of Illinois at Chicago have voted to authorize a strike as their union negotiates better pay, lighter workloads and stronger job security.

Leaders with the UIC United Faculty union said 77% of their nearly 900 members voted, and nearly all supported a strike. A walkout date has not been announced.

The faculty union said negotiations have gone on for seven months “but the administration has refused to adequately address” members’ key concerns, taking 11 weeks to respond to the union’s August comprehensive contract proposal. The union has been working without a contract since mid-August, and the two sides entered third-party mediation at the end of October.

Charitianne Williams, a senior lecturer in the English Department and member of the UICUF bargaining team, said it’s “hard to say” what the sticking points are in negotiations because the UIC administration “has not yet really taken our largest and most important proposals seriously.”

“In the past few years faculty have outright sacrificed for the stability and the prosperity of this university,” said Williams, who has worked at UIC for 21 years. “And that has been a successful sacrifice. UIC is thriving. enrollment is up, the books are clean. It is a vibrant, thriving university. And it’s time that the people who made that happen be recognized for our efforts.”

The union wants pay raises that match lagging salaries and historic inflation, leaders said.

“It’s becoming very difficult for some of our faculty members to even live in the city of Chicago with the rate of pay they’re receiving,” Williams said. “The pay is weak enough that it’s not competitive and folks are leaving UIC for other schools.”

UICUF has also proposed requiring every university program to establish clear workload guidelines that can’t be exceeded because some faculty members have taken on more responsibilities over the years. In some cases, instead of adding classes, the university has raised course enrollment caps, adding to lecturers’ work, Williams said.

Job security for non-tenure-track staff is also on the table, as are student supports and resources that affect the faculty’s working conditions.

UIC administration representatives didn’t immediately comment.

UICUF last went on strike in 2014. The union authorized a walkout in 2019 but reached a deal the day before a planned work stoppage.

Since 2014, faculty at all three University of Illinois campuses — Chicago, Urbana-Champaign and Springfield — have gone on strike. And graduate student workers at UIC went on strike last spring for eight days over pay raises and reductions of student fees. It was their second walkout in three years.

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