UIC union efforts under review

May 5, 2011

By Kristen McQueary

The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board is reviewing a petition filed last week by teachers and staff at the University of Illinois at Chicago to unionize, starting the clock on a 120-day process that will either certify the union or mark a setback for supporters.

Union supporters filed signed cards with the labor board in Chicago on Friday. University officials confirmed Wednesday their receipt of the petition.

“We are working cooperatively with the labor board, and there’s not much more I can say at this point,” said Mark Rosati, the university’s associate chancellor of public affairs. “There are a number of deadlines fast approaching, so we are collecting information.”

University Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares and Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost Jerry Bauman sent a letter to UIC faculty and staff Monday, addressing questions surrounding the filing.

“We hope that all faculty who signed cards realized this did not mean they were calling for an election — a process of open debate on the merits of unionization, followed by a secret ballot,” the letter reads. “Anyone who signed a card was, in effect, voting for unionization.”

Eileen Brennan, a staff member with the labor board, said the identities of card-signers will remain confidential during the verification process. Her job going forward will be to determine whether those who signed cards are eligible to join. Organizers need 50 percent plus one of eligible staff to form a bargaining unit.

In the letter to faculty and staff, university officials said they would oppose “any effort to combine temporary faculty with tenure-system faculty into a single bargaining unit.”

The card-signing effort marked two years of organizing by the UIC United Faculty campaign, American Association of University Professors and Illinois Federation of Teachers/American Federation of Teachers.

“In the face of tremendous anti-union fervor nationwide, these faculty members chose to unionize,” said Howard Bunsis, professor of accounting at Eastern Michigan University and chairman of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress.