Union issue settled, UPI wins

By Jami Peterson

A professional union won the right Wednesday to become the bargaining voice for NIU’s non-tenured faculty members.

The University Professionals of Illinois (UPI) received 68 votes out of a total of 108 non-tenured faculty members who voted on the union issue. About 134 non-tenured faculty members were eligible to vote for or against the union.

After nervously pacing while the votes were tabulated, UPI President Mitch Vogel clapped his hands in relief when the results came through. “We’re very pleased that the non-tenured faculty at NIU have achieved the right to control their own destiny,” Vogel said.

UPI, which has been pushing to represent NIU’s temporary faculty members since last April, plans to move quickly ahead. “We will be sending letters within a week asking them (NIU’s administration) to come to the bargaining table,” Vogel said.

The union will help NIU’s non-tenured faculty members receive greater job security and salaries, he said.

The outcome of the vote mirrors UPI’s expectations to receive about 70 votes, he said. However, he said the voter turnout could have been better.

“The turnout was indicative of what the administration was trying to do through stalling and other tactics to make the situation more confusing,” Vogel said.

Board of Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves said the bargaining will be “difficult and hard,” but the board plans to oblige faculty wishes.

“We will work to come to a conclusion to this bargaining which is appropriate to the administration,” he said.

University Legal Counsel George Shur said NIU is prepared to sit down with UPI and begin bargaining. “Everything related to terms in condition and employment are now subject to bargaining,” he said.

However, Shur said UPI and NIU’s administration still must work within the boundaries of the state legislature. “To a very large extent the (non-tenured faculty’s) conditions in employment are set by the state of Illinois,” he said. “We are controlled by the legislature.”

The collective bargaining procedures have a long road ahead, Shur added. “The process is just beginning.”

Steve Cunningham, Regents assistant vice chancellor, agreed that negotiating will not be a simple or quick process. “The union becomes the exclusive representative of these temporary faculty members for all matters relating to wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment, which pretty much covers everything,” he said.

An eight-member committee fighting for union representation passed around cards last April and said over half of the faculty were in favor of a union. UPI and these faculty members have been fighting for the union all summer.

UPI also has been pushing this semester to represent NIU’s tenured faculty. Vogel said he believes the results of this vote could tip the scales in his direction.

“The faculty at Northern, whether tenured or non-tenured, are a family,” he said. “One member of that family has chosen to go with UPI. We assume the other members of the family will look at collective bargaining as something they want to consider.”

UPI plans to continue working to represent NIU’s tenured faculty members, Vogel said. “The next couple of weeks or months there will probably be a couple announcements concerning the tenured faculty.”

Although Groves said he did not know what impact the vote will have on UPI’s effort to represent NIU’s tenured faculty, he believes it will have some influence. “This is an event that will be on people’s minds for some time,” he said.

Both Cunningham and Shur said the vote is a separate issue from the tenured faculty. “I don’t think this (the vote) will have any impact,” Shur said.