Nearly 500 non-tenure track (NTT) faculty at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) won a major victory by forming a union, which was certified yesterday by the labor relations board. This win is part of a trend in higher education where faculties are pushing back against college administrators turning university teaching into an unstable, temporary job. Stability for educators means higher retention rates and more experience in the classroom. In May, tenure-track and NTT faculty at UIUC’s sister school University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) signed its first union contract, a move that was widely supported by students and community members who saw a lack of respect for their professors as a lack of respect for their education.
“We are excited to become a certified union and lead non-tenure track faculty toward a rewarding future,” said Dorothee Schneider, history lecturer at UIUC. “We represent a very diverse community of teachers, researchers and scholars. Our union looks forward to finally giving our members a strong voice as educators, as innovators and, above all, as faculty at the University of Illinois.”
In May, NTT faculty at UIUC submitted union authorization cards signed by a majority showing interest in union representation and today the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) officially approved their efforts. NTT faculty is a diverse group comprised of lecturers, instructors, as well as clinical, visiting, teaching and research faculty whose labor is vital to the teaching and research missions of the U of I. While ineligible for tenure and generally paid less than their tenure-track colleagues, they perform much of the classroom teaching, laboratory and field work, and help promote student retention and achievement.
NTT faculty organized towards a future that includes longer-term contracts, clear guidelines for promotion, higher salaries, and respect as faculty. These improvements in working conditions often lead to higher faculty retention and more experience in the classroom. The union organizing drive was a joint effort between NTT faculty represented by the Campus Faculty Association (CFA), The Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).
“Union representation is a win for educators and students,” said Dan Montgomery, President of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. “Adjuncts face low pay, little job security, and often no benefits. This kind of part-time, unstable employment for educators makes it difficult for universities to retain and grow experience in the classroom. Unionization at UIUC is a first step in securing rights for these hard working educators.”
“This is a great victory for academic labor, as this group of faculty stood up for collective bargaining at a major research university,” said Howard Bunsis, chair of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress, “By working collectively, the students, faculty, and university will benefit from this group of faculty having a voice in the process and a seat at the table.”
“This victory for our new members at UIUC is a significant win in our fight to end the exploitation of non-tenure track faculty and to restore respect and dignity to all faculty on college campuses,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “By having a voice at work, these faculty members will be able to advocate for better learning conditions for students and to further strengthen their college.”