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This just in… Four SIUC unions announce intent to strike

Thursday, Apr 28, 2011

* 3:48 pm - Four unions at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale have have announced they will file an intent to strike notice…

The unions that filed are the Faculty Association, Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association, the Association of Civil Service Employees and Graduate Assistants United. The notice does not mean the unions are going on strike. Rather it is a procedure that must be completed for the Labor Act before any action can be taken. […]

Natasha Zaretsky, history professor and union member, said in an opening statement that the intent came about because of the administration imposing terms on the faculty, staff and graduate assistants without fair negotiations. She said “it drives a wedge between us that divides and demoralizes the campus community.”

She said the notices were filed to get the “Board of Trustees bargaining teams back at the table and negotiating in good faith” and “to encourage our employer to bring fair and reasonable proposals so we can reach acceptable agreements and conclude the negotiations for new multi-year contracts.”

Chancellor Rita Cheng said notices were sent out to faculty unions on Friday and Monday expressing a desire to return to the bargaining table. She said that possible dates were also sent out for times to return to the table. Cheng said it was made clear that the one-year contract put forth by the administration was only intended to cover the remaining months this year and was in no way a long term contract. She said she hopes “all parties can get back to bargaining in good faith.”

* My former intern Barton Lorimor took a look at the situation last night

The two sides have been negotiating new union contracts upon the expiration of previous agreements that were overseen by an interim provost and temporary chancellor in 2006. This year’s talks have brought a federal mediator to the campus and been the subject of demonstrations throughout the process. Students and faculty members even demonstrated outside of Shryock Auditorium during Chancellor Rita Cheng’s installment ceremony earlier this month.

A previous report in the campus newspaper, the Daily Egyptian, said some of the unions have considered filing litigation against the university for imposing one-year employment terms on three of the unions without their approval. Randy Hughes, president of the tenured faculty union, would not say if today’s announcement concerns those threats but said such action remains under consideration.

Unions have been resistant to the university’s implementation of furlough days and talks of having to distribute lay-off notices as enrollment and financial support from the state has declined over the last six years. A representative from SIU President Glenn Poshard’s office has said the SIU system’s state allocation is now at levels not seen since fiscal year 1999.

Poshard has been consistent in publicly supporting Cheng’s performance since she became the Carbondale campus’ sixth chancellor in ten years last summer.

The administration has mostly brushed off claims made by union leaders that the university has exaggerated its declining fiscal condition. Just this month the unions claimed the administration is plotting to eliminate bargaining rights and discontinue tenure positions. Cheng has declined to comment on these claims in the local press but said any concerns over language in the one-year terms can be discussed for a future agreement.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

29 Comments
  1. - Deep South - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 3:58 pm:

    Well-heeled university professors earning upwards of $100,000 and more, with some mighty sweet benefits, want a raise….while thousands of state workers take furlough days.

    O.M.G.


  2. - ChicagoR - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 3:59 pm:

    I foresee a new nominee for the list of state institutions we could close to save money.


  3. - 42nd Ward - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:11 pm:

    A Strike To Nowhere against a broke university in a broke state. Good luck with that. Did the campus Drama Club just put on a production of Les Miserables or something?


  4. - Downstate Illinois - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:16 pm:

    Fire them all. Educators have no moral right to strike during a school year whether they teach kindergarten or graduate courses.

    These jerks picketed Cheng’s installation ceremony a few weeks ago to the chant of “Hey, hey, ho, ho …” like the bunch of aged hippie protester wannabes they are.

    Southern has few enough academic traditions as it is. The campus needs to attract more students not drive them away or furloughs could turn into outright layoffs. For a bunch of highly educated people, this lot sure acts so stupid it’s almost beyond belief.

    The timing of this is amazing. Public sentiment has already turned against unions in general and public sector unions in particular. Forget red states, even Democratic lawmakers are reining them in as evidenced earlier this week in Massachusetts and Sen. Lightford’s so-called education reform bill here in Illinois.

    There’s still time for the legislature to take away university employees’ right to strike or to de-certify them all together. Remember, they didn’t pay off Quinn before the election for protection like state workers. They can be hung out to dry like every other state vendor.


  5. - hisgirlfriday - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:21 pm:

    Just wondering… does Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon belong to any of these unions? Or did she give up her post at SIUC?

    BTW, Deep South, a quick search of Ms. Zaretsky’s salary shows she made $61,000 in 2009 and no one in the SIUC history department made more than $93,000.

    http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/html_fc9db146-6761-11df-9054-0017a4a78c22.html


  6. - chi - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:32 pm:

    Downstate- most colleges attract good students in part by attracting good faculty. This is done in part by paying faculty well.

    Further, why don’t they have a moral right? What if their salaries were cut to $5 a year and they had zero days off, etc.; still not morally acceptable to strike? Says you.

    Is it morally acceptable that you want to fire and “hang out to dry” University employees because they want better treatment at work?


  7. - Loop Lady - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:39 pm:

    And the first shot flies over the bow…here we go Illinoians…
    Are we paying the price at last for the lack of state financial support to HIgher Ed? Yep..


  8. - Responsa - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:39 pm:

    Margaret Mitchell once wrote a very fine historical novel about the futility of struggling to hold onto a doomed way of life which is being altered and buffeted by outside societal events and economics. Members of the SIU unions might benefit from re-reading the book.


  9. - steve schnorf - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:41 pm:

    Boy, I would think a public employee union at a university, especially the professors, would have to be pretty tone deaf to be talking about strikes right now.


  10. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:43 pm:

    ===What if their salaries were cut to $5 a year and they had zero days off, etc.;===

    Red herring.

    Although I do agree with your point about “no moral right.”


  11. - wordslinger - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 4:44 pm:

    The timing of the announcement is terrible and makes the unions look indifferent and self-centered. Couldn’t they have waited until the flood crisis has passed?


  12. - Willy Wonka - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 5:11 pm:

    Fire them, fire them all. If they aren’t smart enough to realize that the state is broke and higher education costs are becoming out of reach for most people, then they aren’t smart enough to be teaching our children because what they are teaching them by striking is not a good lesson. I’m sure there are plenty of college grads working at Subway who would love a teaching position.


  13. - 47th Ward - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 5:20 pm:

    The SIU unions ought to be picketing in Springfield. That’s where the problem lies. I feel bad for the school administration. They can’t get paid by Springfield and they can’t raise tuition.

    I get where the unions are coming from, but they are attacking the wrong target. The current contract situation is a direct outgrowth of the funding crisis in Springfield.


  14. - Sympathetic - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 5:55 pm:

    The average of all SIU tenure track faculty is 71K. The business and engineering people make big buck but many don’t. The average SIU instructor makes $34,912. University of Illinois faculty are not union and were all furloughed last year.


  15. - Saluki sense - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 8:14 pm:

    This is not four unions , it is one union, the IEA . The real unions on the siu campus took the four furlough days just like the non represented . The IEA’s refusal to take furlough days has most of the responsible faculty ready to decertify them. There is zero chance the faculty would vote to strike.


  16. - hisgirlfriday - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 9:36 pm:

    Responsa,

    Are you seriously comparing union members threatening a strike to bring the university back to the negotiating table to plantation owners considering a war to preserve their right to enslave human beings? Good grief.

    Not to mention, I always thought Margaret Mitchell actually had a pretty pro-labor message in that novel. Not only did she clearly think the war to preserve slavery was wrong and pointless, but she also was highly critical of Scarlett’s reliance on prison labor to run her mills after the war.


  17. - superman 606 - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:04 pm:

    it is about having a voice and the right of a union to reach a reasonable compromise– unions are the alternative to “love it or leave it” attitudes of the bosses in administration–the highest paid employees are administrators who really don’t interact with students everyday– maybe the fight is about rights and legitimate partnership not money


  18. - Cowboy - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:23 pm:

    Its unfortunate its come to this, but Cheng and Poshard (especially Poshard) have no one to blame but themselves. All four of these locals (and AFSCME and FoP) have successfully negotiated contracts with multiple administrations in the past and each local offered concessions that would have met each sides interests but Poshard decided now was the time to break the unions.

    At key points during all the negotiations they could have chosen a different path but instead decided to get nasty and make a power play.

    1. After ACsE lost over 50 positions they decided to continue insisting they take the furlough days too where they could have said the layoffs met the units share of the shortfall.

    2. They laid off and partially laid off 93 NTTs a week before Christmas with no plan in place to cover these peoples full classrooms simply to apply pressure to the union to take a bad agreement.

    3. When the state of Illinois and BoT audit showed SIU had a 15.3 million dollar surplus instead of a deficit as previously reported thay could have taken that opportunity to back down and save face by saying they had cut enough to not have to furlough anyone.

    4. The last straw; now theyre trying to destroy tenure which will stifle creativity, innovation, and academic freedom on this campus.

    This is gonna get ugly and everybody who lives south of I-64 is gonna be affected.


  19. - Doc Saluki - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:32 pm:

    Note that the administration declared an impasse in order to break off negotiations and impose furloughs and draconian contract terms. Apparently the Chancellor is now backing off those terms by saying she’s ready to talk again, really didn’t mean to attack tenure, etc. If she really is backing off those terms (and not just blowing smoke) there’s hope for a settlement without a strike.

    Finally, a shameless plug: if you want to learn more about what’s going on down in Carbondale try this blog: www.siucfaculty.blogspot.com.


  20. - Doc Saluki - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 10:35 pm:

    Drop the final period and the link in my post just above works. Darn internet.


  21. - superman 606 - Thursday, Apr 28, 11 @ 11:14 pm:

    there are always two sides to a story and the unions are always depicted as the villain–SIU is so imbued with “executivitis” that it makes me sick– just because they make the most money creates the arrogance that the Chancellor or the President is smarter than the individuals who do the day to day work with real live students. The face of a university is not the upper crust but the professors and lecturers and grad assistants and yes that office civil service worker who is the first middle and last contact.Poshard and Cheng need to take care of the face of SIU and it is not them!


  22. - Cowboy - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 7:20 am:

    At his core Poshard is a politician not an educator or administrator. Politicians do things by seeking leverage, applying pressure, patronage, and back room dealing. This is how he attempted to run SIU and look where we are. Enrollment declining every year and a horrible reputation. Every school in the state except SIU has had increased enrollment and no even talks about U of I’s issue from last year. Just one example of how SIU does business: Administrative positions and appointments have gone up 30% over the last 12 years while faculty positions have remained flat. Why are all these administrative positions needed with declining enrollment? Theyre needed because Poshard and his people want to give their friends and supporters jobs. Its what politicians do.


  23. - Saluki4Life - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 8:51 am:

    These post that state the faculty and staff want a raise from a broke University in a broke state need to step back and realize the faculty and staff have recognized we “all” need to work on the budget. Yet our own Chancellor was awarded a $50,000 increse when she signed on, thus increasing the salary to mid $300,000 (not to mention housing and car allowances). Please note, this increase is more than the majority of the NTT and general staff make in an entire year. So, I ask you now, why do you believe the ones delivering the day to day instruction are the ones trying to ‘break’ the University????


  24. - notyourBubba'sdaughter - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 10:18 am:

    In response at least to Downsouth, ChicagoR, 42ndWard & DownstateIL…..you are obviously either in politics or on a state pension draining more than your share of IL taxpayer money, or you are just ignorant of how much work is involved in being a quality educator. In addition, you either do not know/remember the important role all unions have played in keeping the working class in this country from becoming modern-day slaves to the aristocracy or you are the aristocracy and would like nothing better.
    We should also not forget that teaching institutions are/should be for teachers and ALL students seeking an education. The highly paid administrators should be here to SUPPORT the faculty and students, not undermine the educational system for a show of who has more power…..or we could just export our educational system to the third world like we have all of our other businesses in this country and keep our future middle/lower class generations uneducated so they will not question the aristocracy–wow! what a concept…so appropriate in the 150th anniversary of the Civil War!!!


  25. - Cowboy - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 10:29 am:

    All 4 locals governing bodies (made up of their ex boards and shop stewards) voted nearly unanimously to give their presidents the authority to file these notices roughly 3 weeks ago. Each president then sent private emails to the SIU admin saying they had this authority but want to begin negotiating again before filing them publicly in 2 weeks. On the very last day the admin sent all the presidents the same email saying “they would like to resume negotiations, but they have not changed their position on any major issues.” They didnt even include any dates to meet. So, what exactly did they want to talk about? These notices break the illegally declared impasse and negotiations can resume. Now the admin actually has the chance to take this seriously.


  26. - StickToTheFacts - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 11:08 am:

    Wordslinger,
    The timing is indeed terrible. Some of our bargaining teams have been working to find an agreement since 2009. It has been a long time coming.


  27. - StickToTheFacts - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 11:11 am:

    hisgirlfriday,
    Sheila Simon is a due-paying member of the NTT Faculty Association. She is on leave of absence from SIUC, but maintains her membership.


  28. - siuprof - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:27 pm:

    The four unions involved have a very low percentage of their bargaining units as members (for the two faculty unions-around 25%) and limited support for their actions even among their members. If they do continue on this course of making unreasonable demands and refusing to tale the furlough days that everyone else did to support our students, they could find themselves decertified. This is a small group of hardcore administration haters who will never be satisfied. These people need to find another institution for their talents, for they are destroying the efforts of the great majority of the people who give their all to this great university.


  29. - realprof - Friday, Apr 29, 11 @ 1:47 pm:

    This is in response to siuprof
    Could you explain how furlough days, which keep people away from their work, support our students.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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