The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

The Student Newspaper of DePaul University

The DePaulia

UIC teachers fight for a voice and a raise

Faculty and students picketed throughout the University of Illinois at Chicago campus despite the cold on Feb. 19 for the second day of the union strike against the administration.

The faculty strike, led by the UIC United Faculty Local 6456, was a two-day event Feb. 18-19, in which faculty and volunteering students would picket around campus and the quad from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Wednesday Feb. 19, a rally was held that included faculty leaders, students, community organizations and campus workers. Participants of the strike also held a Light Brigade banner over the Racine/290 overpass, and a demonstration outside the Battle of the Deans basketball shootout at the UIC Pavilion.

The UIC faculty union decided to strike against the administration for two main reasons: unfair wages and the lack of direct participation of faculty in administrative decisions.

“UIC administration continues to hike tuition to the point it has amassed hundreds of millions in profits each year and more than a billion dollars in reserves, yet refuses to pay professors what they’re worth,” the union’s website said. It also stated that many faculty members who teach first-year students only make around $30,000 a year. According to their mission, the UIC faculty union is committed to “making sure that every member of the faculty has an individual voice and that the faculty as a whole has a collective voice in determining our future.” According to UIC professor John Ireland, making this mission a reality is more difficult than it seems.

“This is the third time UIC has tried to unionize, and only this time did it get majority votes,” Ireland said. “When the university reluctantly was forced to recognize the union, the administration blocked the negotiation process for months, hoping that attrition might undermine union resolve.”

While making their voice more prominent is an important part of the faculty’s strike, the bigger issue seems to be the unfair salaries distributed among the faculty and administration. UIC professor and member of the faculty union Margaret Miner felt strongly about the cause.

“Either they [professors] have to work extra jobs, or they have to have a family situation that can somehow accommodate them and even so, that’s demeaning,” she said. “I’m not here for the money exactly, but I do have a family and children to educate.”

This event raises the question as to whether or not the strike will influence faculty of other universities in Chicago to take a stand. Unlike UIC, DePaul University does not have a faculty union because it is a private institution, and therefore does not follow rules made by the state public employee labor laws.

UIC student and active member of the United Students Against Sweatshops Martin Macias helped promote a petition in favor of the faculty at the event.

“I mean, it’s ridiculous. The trend has been to decrease wages for faculty, and that’s a trend that’s happened nationally,” Macias said. “Really this mobilization is part of a resistance to that trend.”

“Call me old-fashioned and regressive, but…teachers and students, they are the university,” Miner said. “This is where we spend our lives, this is what we do.”

While it is unsure as to whether the administration is getting a raise in salary or not, the tuition raise along with stagnant faculty wages has brought attention to the problem, hence the strike. Many faculty members, students and passersby have participated heavily in the strike both Tuesday and Wednesday.

“About 60 percent of the faculty is actively engaged,” Ireland said. “I would guess, because they see the strike as the only way the U of I administration will pay attention to what they are asking for. It reminds the administration that without our teaching, the whole function of the university is blocked.”

“If I was an employee here and I was trying to have a better contract…. and I wanted to be treated with respect and I didn’t see that my employer was doing that, I think it would discourage me a little bit,” Macias said.

While faculty and students are working hard to make their voices heard, it is difficult to predict if the administration will respond positively to the strike or not.

“It’s hard to predict. There may well be another, longer strike that will be more disruptive,” Ireland said. “The union does not want that, but it is our strongest bargaining tool if the administration refuses to negotiate.”

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