Thousands of faculty at dozens of colleges and universities have voted to join SEIU/Faculty Forward in the last two years. On Sunday, September 27th, 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 stability.
“Today we came together to raise the profile of serious issues facing higher education, and set goals to improve our profession in Chicago. But hundreds of faculty across Chicago have been active in a growing movement to raise standards in higher education and the broader economy,” said Loyola University Chicago faculty member Paige Warren. “Now is the perfect opportunity for us to lead the way in the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois by forming a union with SEIU/Faculty Forward.”
Part-time and non-tenure track faculty are now the majority of faculty at our colleges and universities and their numbers continue to increase. At the same time, revenues and tuition have increased steadily over the last two decades while spending on instruction has declined – and it’s faculty and their students who are suffering as a result.
University of Chicago faculty member Daniel Raeburn said, “While we love teaching at UChicago, there are lots of reasons for us to form a union and work with the administration to make it a better place to study, teach and grow in our profession. We have seen the gains made by contingent faculty at Tufts and other schools that have formed unions with SEIU – in particular, big improvements in compensation, job stability, and access to professional development funds to keep up with advances in our fields. We strongly believe that creating more equitable and predictable employment conditions for non-tenure-track faculty will enhance the quality of our students’ educational experiences.”
Chicago City Council members introduced a resolution calling for private colleges and universities in Chicago to support non-tenure contingent faculty given their significant role in academia, and to allow them to unionize without interference.
“I saw first-hand the daily struggles contingent faculty face during my time in graduate school. It is time for them to be treated fairly,” said Alderman Will Burns, Chair of the City’s Education Committee.
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. It has become so bad that 20 percent of part-time faculty at private universities in Illinois rely on some sort of government assistance to make ends meet.
This fall, faculty at a number of top-tier public and private universities are building support to form unions and join colleagues at Georgetown, Tufts, 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.