On February 18, the tenure track and non-tenure track faculty who make up the University of Illinois-Chicago faculty union UICUF Local 6456 will walk out of the classroom and onto the picket line for a two-day strike. Barring a dramatic change-of-heart by university administrators at the bargaining table the weekend, it will be the first faculty strike at a major research university in a very long time.

There are a number of ways to support them over social media.

Here’s a set of strike graphics you can share on your Facebook wall. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.674831679226963.1073741845.523003031076496&type=3

We’re holding a Twitter Storm using the hashtag #UICStrike on the evening of Tuesday, February 18th between 7-9PM (Central Time). During that window, send out tweets and Facebook messages using that hashtag to get it trending.

Here are some sample tweets. Feel free to write your own tweets, modify these, or simply copy and paste them. If you have any original content from the strike (photos, videos, etc) it would be great to post during this window. Retweet and share other people’s #UICStrike posts. By no means must you wait until the 18th to start your social media support. You can show solidarity today!

Sample Tweets:

“Administrators at UIC have increased by 10%, while tenured faculty positions have decreased by 1%.” http://ow.ly/tDMSp #UICStrike

Tuition has increased by 25% since 2007, while student enrollment is up by more than 10%. http://ow.ly/tDTDF #UICStrike

Small class sizes, individualized instruction, support for research, well equipped classrooms and labs http://ow.ly/tDTOr #UICStrike

The point of #UICStrike is to help fulfill UIC’s mission — providing quality education for working class students. http://ow.ly/tDEZt

UIC United Faculty President Joe Persky explains #UICStrike to Chicago Tonight on @WTTW http://ow.ly/tDI6q

Professor Lenny Davis explains why he’s striking http://youtu.be/ke9moptBV4Q and in Jacobin Magazine http://ow.ly/tDL2S #UICStrike

Looking for ways to show solidarity with #UICStrike? We have details here. http://ow.ly/tDLjq

UIC Professor Dick Simpson is striking for the future of teaching! #UICStrike Here’s his video —> http://youtu.be/3BlSK6NOxB0

“We’re losing faculty to universities willing to pay a fair salary; it’s our students who pay the price.” http://ow.ly/tDMEy #UICStrike

UIC Professor Gerry Gorman on union voice and #UICStrike Video —> http://youtu.be/QaaRikZ63Ns

Professor Bill Watkins Explains Why He’s Going on Strike http://ow.ly/tDLTK #UICStrike

Here are some links to news stories on the strike:

Chicago Tonight featuring UIC Faculty Union President Joe Persky http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2014/02/13/uic-faculty-union-threatens-strike

Jacobin Magazine https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/02/faculty-on-strike/

Chicagoist http://chicagoist.com/2014/02/13/teachers_at_uic_may_strike_next_wee.php

The News-Gazette http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2014-02-13/uic-faculty-union-sets-strike-date-next-week.html

UICUF Press Release: http://uicunitedfaculty.org/2014/02/uic-faculty-union-plans-two-day-strike-fair-contract/

Follow
@IFTAFT (Illinois Federation of Teachers)
@UICUF (UIC local twitter)
@kenzoshibata

Also on Facebook

https://www.facebook.com/UICUF

and

https://www.facebook.com/iftaft

Dear GEO Members:

United Faculty, which represents all full-time UIC faculty (tenure and non-tenure), is planning a two-day walkout for Tuesday, February 18th and Wednesday, February 19th. This is an exciting opportunity for graduate employees and other campus workers to show our solidarity with the faculty in their contract negotiations. Faculty members cannot prohibit you from participating in the strike or other solidarity activities when you are off the clock. Nor can they require you to participate in union activities. We want to make sure all of our members know their rights and responsibilities in the event of another union’s labor action on campus.

The GEO contract contains a “no strike” clause that legally bars us from endorsing a sympathy strike and subjects any GA or TA to disciplinary action if they choose to withhold their labor in solidarity with UF. (RAs, graduate hourly employees, and graduate students on fellowship are not covered by our contract. While that means they are not legally prohibited from sympathy striking, it also means that they are not entitled to union representation. We do not know what the consequences will be, if any, for RAs, grad hourly employees, or fellows who honor faculty picket lines.) There are, however, a number of ways you can support the faculty:

• March with faculty during your off-hours.
• Respect picket lines whenever possible (i.e., don’t cross the line unless you absolutely must in order to complete your job duties).
• Explain the issues to your students, colleagues, friends, and family.
• Hang a “Proud Union Office” or “Proud Union Lab” on your door. If you would like one of these, please email the GEO at the email address below and we will make sure you get one.
• Tell a faculty member that their fight is our fight.

Whether or not any member chooses to cross the picket line is a matter of personal conscience. That said, GEO wants all members to understand that you may face disciplinary action for violating the “no strike” clause only if you choose to participate in the faculty strike by withholding labor (for example, canceling classes and office hours, refusing to report to work for GA hours, or intentionally ignoring student emails). These disciplinary penalties for violating the “no strike” clause could include dismissal. If, as the result of their participation in the faculty labor action, GEO members are subject to disciplinary action, they should immediately contact GEO: all union members are entitled to union representation.

If you have any questions or concerns about the strike, please contact us at geo@uic-geo.net.

At the Board of Trustees retreat on Wednesday, January 22, both President Easter and Trustee Pam Strobel explained that the purpose of their retreats was to ensure that the U of I system fulfilled the promises of the land grant college mission. (For those of you not versed in the history of land grant colleges, they were founded in the 19th century as an alternative to traditional higher education, which focused on the liberal arts and was the privilege of the very wealthy. Many land grant colleges specialized in professional training: agriculture, mining, engineering, and the sciences.) One of the central premises of land grant colleges is that a practical post-secondary education would allow poor Americans to enter the middle class. UIC, in particular, was moved from its original location on Navy Pier to its current location because Richard J. Daley believed that expanding the university would improve the lives of Chicago’s working class and their children.

Certainly, a lot has changed since the land grant system was started over 150 years ago and since UIC moved to the Circle Campus in 1965. But, UIC’s historic commitment to a practical education for all, regardless of their economic background, should not change. Increasing tuition (30% since 2007) and shrinking faculty numbers and pay threaten this mission. If the Board of Trustees is truly interested in fulfilling its historical mission, a good way to start would be to pay its faculty fair wages.

 

United Faculty, the union that represents full-time faculty at UIC, has been in negotiations with the University since September 2011 and have had over sixty negotiating sessions. They entered federal mediation in November 2013. UF and the University have come to a number of tentative agreements; the sticking points are, no surprise, mostly financial. Here is what UF is asking for:

  • Shared governance with administration over curriculum and budgeting.

  • Tenure track (TT) employees will be given a 3.5% raise. The University has offered them a 2.75% increase. To put these numbers in context, non-union UIC employees (including non-unionized faculty in the Colleges of Dentistry and Medicine, academic professionals, and administrators) received 2.75% to 3.25% raises in 2013. And downstate at UIUC, faculty received 4.15% to 4.65% raises. The faculty’s demands are by no means extravagant.

  • Non-tenure track (NTT) employee minimum will be raised from $30,000 to $45,000 a year. This works out to a raise from $5,000 per class taught to $7,500 per class.

The raise in the NTT minimum sounds like a lot, and the University keeps claiming that they simply don’t have the money to pay the increased salaries. Independent audits of the University’s budget, however, indicate otherwise: a June 2013 report stated that the University’s financial position is strong. There are now over $1 billion in unrestricted funds, having grown $287 million in the past year; UF’s salary increases would cost approximately $3.5 million per year. It’s clear there are the funds available, but paying instructors seems not to be the University’s highest priority. The conclusion I draw from the University’s unwillingness to pay instructors living wages is that education is no longer their highest priority. Perhaps the new face of land grant colleges is one that values home redecoration over undergraduate education. That, at least, UIC is willing to invest money in.

 

UF authorized a strike in December, with over 95% of their members voting to strike. A walk out is anticipated soon if the University doesn’t begin to take UF’s demands seriously. Hopefully, today’s action sent a message that UF is going to fight for a good and fair contract. If not, the University is in for a shock when its core employees refuse to teach classes, grade papers, meet with students, or serve on committees. No matter what, GEO stands by UF: their fight is our fight.