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
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.
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
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.
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.
Collective bargaining has now been replaced by a campus governance system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.