FAQ – Potential Unionization of Faculty
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS CONCERNING POTENTIAL UNIONZATION OF FACULTY AT UIS
1. Are departments required to allow unions to solicit faculty in University facilities or speak at departmental meetings?
A: No. Union officials are not allowed to disrupt or interfere with faculty performing their normal work activities. This does not preclude making space available for meetings involving union officials in the same manner as any other requests for meeting rooms for non-departmental activities or purposes.
2. What does it mean if a faculty member signs a union authorization card?
A: Signing an authorization card means that you are casting a vote to be represented by the union.
3. Do faculty members have the right to vote in an election before a union is certified?
A: Not necessarily. Illinois law allows for certification of a union through either an election or by a “card check” procedure whereby a union demonstrates to the Labor Board that it has a “majority interest” of employees in the proposed bargaining unit. Such majority interest may be shown by the union producing dues deduction authorization forms or similar documents signed by a majority of employees in the proposed bargaining unit.
4. What if a faculty member misunderstood or wishes to revoke a union authorization card he/she previously signed? Do faculty have an option to revoke it?
A: Employees who have questions about this should contact the Public Information Officer of the Educational Labor Relations Board (312-793-3170). Based on our understanding of the law, employees can revoke cards by notifying the Union in writing of their decision to revoke their cards and request that the cards be returned to them. If employees decide to revoke and withdraw their cards, it should be done before any representation petition is filed with the Labor Board. If such a written revocation and request is submitted to Union, employees should sign and date the request and keep a copy for their records.
5. How final is a decision to have a union represent the faculty?
A: Once the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board declares a union to be the exclusive bargaining representative of the faculty, the union is authorized to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement for the employees in the bargaining unit. Once a contract is agreed upon, decertification is barred during the life of the contract. It is extremely rare for a union to be decertified once the first collective bargaining agreement has been negotiated
6. Would chairs of departments be included in a faculty bargaining unit?
A: Generally not. The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act excludes supervisory, managerial and confidential employees from the definition of educational employees who are eligible to collectively bargain. It will be the position of the University that chairs and heads would be excluded from any faculty bargaining unit because they exercise supervisory, managerial and confidential job responsibilities.
7. It has been asserted that unionizing will strengthen the faculty role in university governance. Is this true?
A: No. Matters of governance are not a mandatory subject of bargaining. The subjects of collective bargaining are wages, hours, and conditions of employment.
8. Can a union guarantee or even accurately predict salary increases after a union is formed?
A: No. Salary adjustments would be a subject of bargaining, requiring mutual agreement between union and University negotiators before any adjustments could be implemented.
9. Would collective bargaining help protect faculty’s current pension rights?
A: Not necessarily. Benefits under the State Universities Retirement System are actually set by State Statute and are not subjects of negotiations in any of the University’s collective bargaining contracts. In fact, the University would have no authority to negotiate alterations or guarantees concerning the statutory pension plan.
10. What expenses would a faculty member incur by having a union representative?
A: Illinois law permits negotiation of “fair share” clauses, which require employees to pay the equivalent of union dues for the cost of services rendered by the union. (115 ILCS 5/11) Union dues would likely be set at a percentage of gross salary.
11. How might having a faculty union affect our efforts to promote excellence?
A: Certification of a faculty union could undermine or at least impair the authority of department heads and deans to reward outstanding faculty performance, by requiring permission of a union before awarding meritorious pay adjustments. The union might also block pay adjustments for professional development, course releases, stipends, etc.
12. Are faculty at other UI campuses in a union?
A: The Urbana-Champaign faculty are not. There is an ongoing legal process concerning an effort to unionize some faculty at Chicago. (Update: Chicago faculty are currently represented in two separate bargaining units.)
13. Will collective bargaining impact current roles and relationships between faculty and department chairs and other administrators?
A: Yes. The University administration has a duty to deal exclusively with a union concerning decisions pertaining to pay, hours, and working conditions. In other words, administrators would no longer be able to have direct interactions with individual faculty on these subjects, unless a union representative is present and participates in those interactions.
14. What is a “strike”?
A: Under Illinois law, faculty who are in a bargaining unit at a public university have the right to strike. Strikes, whereby employees withhold services (and lose pay), are a union’s ultimate method of exerting pressure on management to accept its demands.
15. If a union calls for a strike, must all bargaining unit members participate?
A: No, but strikes and other union concerted activities may disrupt instruction and other university activities, and participants could be subject to loss of pay.
- Mark Owens
Labor Relations Manager
- Laura Alexander
Senior Director of Human Resources