Big News: Chicago City Council unanimously votes to honor faculty, supports right to form unions

As several SEIU Faculty Forward union campaigns gain ground, Chicago City Council unanimously voted on October 14th in support of Chicago professors at area private colleges who are moving to form unions, including Loyola University Chicago and the University of Chicago. Council members passed a resolution that calls for private, non-profit colleges and universities in the Chicago area to improve working conditions for non-tenure track faculty and to also allow them to unionize without interference.

There are more than 6,500 non-tenured faculty working in private colleges and universities in Chicago. Along with stagnant or low pay and little job stability, they often lack office space and access to a computer, teach at multiple schools or hold other part-time jobs. The crisis has resulted in 20 percent of part-time faculty at private universities in Illinois relying on some sort of government assistance to make ends meet.

“The current trends in higher education are hurting professors and also the classroom experience for our students,” said Education Committee chair Alderman Will Burns. “Students are paying more but it’s not going to the people with the core responsibility of our universities – teaching the future leaders of our city and country. Chicago City Council stands with professors at private colleges and universities who want to form a union, and ask colleges to respect their right to decide if it’s best for their families and students.”

“It is unacceptable that faculty in Chicago’s universities–some of the finest institutions in the nation–are subject to poverty wages and unfair working conditions,” said Alderman Scott Waguespack (32). “Teachers’ working conditions are student learning conditions. Faculty at Chicago private universities have the strong support of  City Council to organize and improve conditions.”

The resolution is another way students, full-time professors, community leaders and elected officials are coming together to support Chicago-area faculty as they help build a nationwide movement to improve standards for the profession by forming unions with SEIU Faculty Forward.

Janet Sedlar teaches at the University of Chicago. She said, “University of Chicago faculty are excited about our campaign to join our colleagues at Tufts, Georgetown and other universities across the country who are winning a voice on their campuses. I also appreciate that Chicago City Council along with many students, alumni and tenured faculty, expect a ‘free and fair election’ where faculty alone make the decision, freely and independently, without interference from anyone.”

Thousands of faculty at dozens of colleges and universities have voted to join SEIU/Faculty Forward in the last two years. On September 27, faculty from 19 Chicagoland colleges and universities met to build on the momentum they’ve created to win a voice in their profession and to reverse the trend of low pay, few benefits and little job security.

This fall, faculty at a number of top-tier public and private universities are building support to form unions and join colleagues at Georgetown, Boston University, Washington University in St. Louis and many more who have united in SEIU. Faculty at dozens of campuses nationwide including the University of Minnesota, the University of Washington, the University of Southern California and Duke University are actively building support to form unions with SEIU/Faculty Forward. Together, they have created a movement to address the declining standards that endanger the profession.


Below is the full text of the resolution.

WHEREAS, there at least 6,565 non-tenured faculty currently working in private, non-profit colleges and universities in the City of Chicago in the 2013-2014 academic year; and

WHEREAS, there over 127,751  students enrolled in college or graduate school at private, non-profit colleges and universities in the City of Chicago who increasingly depend on the instruction and guidance of non-tenure, contingent faculty that same academic year; and

WHEREAS, Chicago students paid an average of $31,615 and up to $47,514  in tuition in the 2013 – 2014 academic year to attend a private, non-profit college or university in the City of Chicago; and

WHEREAS, non-tenure contingent faculty should be adequately supported by their institutions for their growing presence and role in the academic pursuits of Chicago’s students; and

WHEREAS, many non-tenure contingent faculty have little job security and must take on multiple course loads at several colleges or universities to make ends meet; and

WHEREAS, many private, non-profit colleges and universities do not provide health care benefits to their non-tenure, contingent faculty; and

WHEREAS, the cost of living in the City of Chicago is 17% higher than the US average; and

WHEREAS, non-tenure, contingent faculty in the City of Chicago should be paid fair wages and benefits that allow them to support themselves and their families; and

WHEREAS, the decision of whether to unionize belongs solely to workers, and should not be interfered with;

BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the Mayor and members of the City Council strongly endorse the efforts of non-tenure, contingent faculty in private, non-profit colleges and universities to organize in an organization of their choosing to improve their working conditions and have a voice on campus.