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Union Busting at UIS

I belong to the UIS chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois (Local 4100 of the Illinois Federation of Teachers). For a while I was the chapter's secretary and newsletter editor. I created but no longer maintain the union's website.

The Problem

The chapter began long before I arrived in 1988 at what was then called Sangamon State University.

Collective bargaining ended on June 30th, 1997--thanks to our state legislature.

When Illinois legislators "reorganized" higher education in 1995, they forced Sangamon State University into the University of Illinois system. SSU became UIS.

As part of the deal--at the insistence of the U of I administration--the legislature amended Illinois law and changed our bargaining unit from the campus to the entire U of I system.

So we no longer have the right to bargain. We can't get it back unless we a majority of the faculty at the other two U of I campuses (Urbana-Champaign and Chicago) vote to unionize.

More than 80% of UIS faculty signed a petition asking the U of I Board of Trustees to support our right to bargain. But although we do have supporters on the Board, they've been out-voted three times by a Republican majority appointed by Governor Jim Edgar and following the demand of University of Illinois President James Stukel.

Possible Remedies

The union filed a lawsuit, now wending its way through state court after losing in federal court. Even a positive result may come too late.

There's also a move to get the legislature to give us back our bargaining unit by amending the 1995 bill, but that's not likely to succeed. It was killed in the Senate by a Rules Committee legislator representing the Urbana-Champaign district. UI President Stukel and UIS Chancellor Naomi Lynn continue to urge the legislature to reject the bill. They even told legislators that the faculty who signed our petiton really didn't mean it!

Media Bias

The Springfield State Journal-Register provides minimal coverage. After they printed an inaccurate editorial urging the legislature to oppose the union's position, they finally ran a rebuttal by UPI member Ron Ettinger. But they still haven't had a story that actually explains the issue.

This is in keeping with the local media's history on the union-busting issue.

Leafleting Blocked

When several union members tried to hand out leaflets at a university-run off-campus conference, the university's security guards physically blocked our efforts.

The Future

Collective bargaining has now been replaced by a campus governance system that has the power to recommend but not to negotiate. Everything from tenure to grievance policies to class size is up for grabs.

Although in theory we are free to determine our own direction, in practice there are more restrictions than they're willing to acknowledge--as in the effort to force us to decide to impose a "merit pay" system on ourselves.

Unfortunately, most people have given up. Union membership has dropped. The university wins.

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Page updated September 30, 2007