Faculty union celebrates one-year mark

Jeff Burnett, Staff Writer

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UIS United Faculty, the tenure and tenure-track professors union, celebrates its one-year mark of bargaining for a contract and held a MAP Grant postcard drive for students. Union members also provided information to students about the union and its goals for their first contract with UIS.

The event focused on raising awareness for the union’s ongoing contract negotiations, which has been asking members of the administration’s negotiating team for a contract that reflects respect for faculty members and their work, as well as their personnel policy.

“We are eager to move ahead and we are exchanging proposals actively,” said Lynn Fisher, UIS United Faculty chapter president.

Students filled out postcards, calling on members of the Illinois general assembly to approve MAP grant funding for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Postcard drives have been taking place on university and college campuses across the state in connection with Fund Our Future, a coalition that University Professions of Illinois (UPI 4100) and its affiliates developed in conjecture with the Illinois Education Association higher education.

“One of the things that a strong union can do is support measures that would benefit students, like pushing for MAP grant funding,” Kristi Barnwell, chapter vice president of UIS United Faculty said. “If we can get beyond this contract then we can all focus more of our energy back where it belongs in the classroom.”

The coalition works to encourage lawmakers to fully fund higher education amid a yearlong budget impasse, which has halted the disbursements of the state’s Monetary Award Program grants for students and higher education funding for colleges and universities.

Following the event, the union’s bargaining unit met with the administration’s negotiating team for a meditation session to further its negotiations.

“This is the first of nine scheduled mediated sessions which carries through January,” Fisher said. “And our hope is that by the end of the nine sessions that we would have a large majority of the contract hammered out.”

In August, the union’s bargaining unit and the university’s negotiating team agreed on a federal mediator to help with the process of setting more mediation times to move negotiations forward. “Quite honestly, we’re just getting frustrated with the administration here at UIS” said John Miller, UPI 4100 president.

The union has been bargaining over its first contract with the university’s negotiating team since it first submitted a proposal to in the fall of 2015.

“A yearlong in terms of negotiations with very little progress is just totally unacceptable,” Miller said.  “It’s time for the administration to seriously sit down and negotiate a contract.”

The union’s bargaining unit started to develop contract proposals earlier that summer.

In November 2014, tenure and tenure-track faculty members voted to form a union on campus and officially became a certified by the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) in the beginning of 2015.

The university currently has contracts with eight other unions on campus.

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