Faculty fights for representation

By Jami Peterson

After a summer of appeals and waiting, some of NIU’s “temporary faculty” will find out this semester whether their fight for union representation paid off.

More than half of the nearly 400 NIU temporary faculty members began pushing the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board last April to accept their call for union representation.

The group wants the University Professionals of Illinois to help them bargain with NIU over salary, job security and health benefits.

UPI President Mitch Vogel said the board will make their decision Tuesday and has 30 days to schedule a temporary faculty election on the matter.

But, he said, NIU stalled the election all summer in order to fire temporary faculty before the bargaining began and hire anti-union replacements.

“They’ve (NIU) gone beyond the brink of fair play,” he said. “It’s a vicious anti-union tactic.”

Because temporary faculty are not considered employees after the end of the fiscal year, he said NIU postponed the election until after June.

“We never thought they (NIU) would fight dirty just to stall an election,” he said. “It’s just not fair.”

Vogel also disagreed with a state finding which stated temporary faculty with more than three years of services and a greater “community of interest” should be dropped from the proposed unit to be represented by UPI.

Because these instructors are not on a tenure track, they lack the benefits of regular faculty members and should be included, he said.

However, NIU Legal Counsel George Shur said the union’s claims are “absolutely outrageous.”

An election was held off until this fall so an open discussion could be scheduled for all temporary faculty members, he said.

“I don’t think anyone wanted to prolong this thing,” he said. “We felt it (an election) should be held when people can come, to it could be completely debated.”

He said UPI’s claim that NIU laid off pro-union people to hire anti-union workers is also “outrageous,” and the election was delayed only until a full oral argument could be held.

“We need to define this unit once and for all,” he said.