Editorial: NIU walkout on negotiations impacts relations, student success


Wes Sanderson

NIU non-tenured English instructor Dan Libman, walks with a sign saying “NIU we miss you” during Wednesday’s IFT and UPI informational picket outside of Altgeld Hall. Libman has been an instructor since 1998 and said he’s never seen the university walk away from the bargaining table until this go around.The picket comes after university officials walked away from non-tenure negotiations and have refused to begin tenure contract negotiations. (Wes Sanderson | Northern Star)

Educators are the backbone of any university. They are faces students interact with often and have the most responsibility in teaching the next generation in the labor force. NIU’s tenure and non-tenure-track faculty are the faces that make up that instructional cohort on campus.

Members of the University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100 have been in ongoing collective bargaining talks for non-tenure-track faculty contracts since June 2021. More recently, the United Faculty Alliance prepared to start bargaining for their own contract. 

Those plans have since come to a halt as the university’s negotiating team walked away after UPI invited members of UFA to the talks, which was “against standard practice,” according to a statement from NIU.

Though inviting UFA members might not be “common practice,” Kerry Ferris, UFA chapter president, said that it isn’t a ground rule.

“It’s not written down,” Ferris said. “There are no ground rules for the UFA negotiations. That means there are no rules that say we can’t bring certain people to the table.”

Keith Nyquist, union chapter president of UPI, also said there were no ground rules laid out for the non-tenure-track negotiations as well. 

The Northern Star Editorial Board believes the breakdown in these negotiations will hurt not just the members of both unions, but also the students at NIU. 

“(Instructors’) key job here is to serve the students,” Nyquist said. “Our benefit to the students and university is we are agents of retention. Our focus is entirely on the students in the classroom.” 

Both UPI and UFA made the decision to bring members of the opposite union to negotiations because both have a shared interest and similar responsibility to the campus. 

“The purpose of labor unions is to create people power,” Ferris said. “We are sister chapters of UPI Local 4100 and we both have insights into how to best serve our unions.”

The Northern Star Editorial Board agrees with both Ferris’ and Nyquist’s rationale and strongly encourages NIU and its bargaining team to return to the table.

Ferris did say that students might not feel the impacts of these talks in the near future, but down the line, students could feel the impact of how these negotiations go.