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FAQ – Potential Unionization of Faculty: Update

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UPDATE – December 2012

1. What is the legal process in Illinois for certification of a union?

A. Illinois law (115 ILCS 5/7) allows a union to be certified when a labor union representative demonstrates a showing of majority interest by employees in the proposed bargaining unit. The law states that submission by the union of signed and dated cards by the employees authorizing payroll deduction for union dues constitutes evidence of employees’ choice for union representation. In other words, when faculty members sign and date cards indicating support for a specified union, such cards may be submitted later by the union to the labor board to be counted in favor of union representation. If a majority of faculty members sign such cards, a union could be certified for tenure system and/or non-tenure system faculty.

2. Can a faculty member sign a card without advocating for unionization?

A. No. A signed card can be used by a union to demonstrate that a majority of faculty wish to be represented by the union and has binding legal effect. In approaching faculty members, it is inaccurate for a union representative or supporter to characterize the signing of such cards as informational only or as non-binding. Furthermore, if a majority of the relevant employees sign cards, a union will be certified.

3. What if a faculty member misunderstood or wishes to revoke a union authorization card he/she previously signed?

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 the union, employees should sign and date the request and keep a copy for their records.

4. What are potential effects of unionization on decision-making regarding faculty matters?

A. If a union is certified, Illinois law requires the University to bargain in good faith with the union representative on wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment. Thus, merit or equity pay increases would likely be mandatory subjects of bargaining and would be negotiated between the University and the union. Also, there is a legal principle that representatives of the employer cannot have direct dealings with employees concerning mandatory subjects of bargaining. The employer cannot unilaterally implement changes to the status quo of mandatory subjects, such as giving individual faculty differentiated pay increases, unless an established policy expressly authorizes pay adjustments (for example, for retention purposes). The law further provides that collective bargaining agreements must contain a grievance resolution procedure providing for binding arbitration of disputes.

5. How would a faculty union affect faculty governance?

A. Unions are entitled to bargain wages, hours, and working conditions. Thus, the role of academic departments in determining merit salary increases as well as teaching loads could be altered in a collective bargaining situation.

Unions typically are not, however, involved in broader issues related to educational policy, such as admissions requirements, degree requirements and confirmation, curricular changes, and academic program changes. These matters continue to be part of the legislative functions of the Academic Senate, as stipulated by the University Statutes.

6. Who may I contact if I have questions or need assistance?

Mark Owens, Labor Relations Manager, UIS Human Resources (
Bob Lael, Director, UIS Human Resources (
Steve Veazie, Deputy University Counsel and Executive Director of Labor Relations for the University (



  • Mark Owens
    Labor Relations Manager
  • Laura Alexander
    Senior Director of Human Resources

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