Petition makes union possible for NIU faculty

By Tammy Sholer

Faculty members could be unionized if enough faculty sign a petition to hold a collective bargaining election next spring.

University Professionals of Illinois are in the process of obtaining between 50 percent and 60 percent of faculties’ signatures in order to hold the election, said Richard Beard, president of NIU’s UPI chapter.

In a close vote Oct. 1, 1986, NIU defeated 398 to 371 the motion to be represented by a collective bargaining agent.

Beard said, “Collective bargaining allows for faculty to directly negotiate with the Board of Regents.”

A team to negotiate would be chosen by the faculty, and if the faculty is dissatisfied with the team’s performance another team can be chosen, Beard said.

However, associate biology Professor Daniel Griffiths said many faculty could lose their voice if collective bargaining is implemented.

Only bargaining agents and a few faculty members would have a voice, Griffiths said.

Faculty members do not have the power to vote with the Regents, but collective bargaining would give faculty power to negotiate issues such as salaries, Beard said.

Gordon Dorn, chapter president for American Association of University Professors (AAUP), said collective bargaining should be a last resort.

“If shared governance does not improve on (NIU’s) campus, AAUP will have to reconsider their position on collective bargaining,” Dorn said.

The administration has recognized the need to improve shared governance, and the AAUP would like to give other programs a chance before resorting to collective bargaining, he said.

Beard said without collective bargaining, faculty members can only recommend proposals to various administrators or committees.

For example, Dorn said, faculty members make recommendations to the provost on how salaries should be dispersed, which gives faculty some input.

With collective bargaining, faculty members would have direct input on issues including salaries, Beard said. After an agreement is reached between the administration and the bargaining agent, the entire faculty has to ratify the agreement. Then it must be ratified by the Regents, he said.

A union has the ability to increase salaries, Griffiths said. “However, when salary and compensation are adjusted to reflect regional variations in the cost of living, the union advantage disappears and may even become negative,” he said referring to a study conducted last year before faculty members voted down unionization.

Griffiths said a union could raise salaries, but the increase would be small.

“I do not think the majority of the faculty is ready for collective bargaining,” Griffiths said. “The election for next spring is not set, and I hope there will not be an election.”

Griffiths said if collective bargaining was approved last year, a re-vote would not occur for about three years. But, because collective bargaining was voted against, a union can return after nine to 12 months, he said.

A full-time organizer is not on campus this year as opposed to last year, said UPI President Mitch Vogel. Rather, an organizer spends between two and three days on campus because more faculty members are involved, he said.

Beard said 64 percent of public institutions of higher education have collective bargaining, and Sangamom State University, which also is under the Regents, is negotiating to have collective bargaining, he said.