04/19/2016

Non-tenure track faculty stage two-day strike

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Hundreds of non-tenure-track faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign walked out of their labs and classrooms on April 19 for the first day of a two-day strike to protest the university's refusal to negotiate improved job security, opportunities for promotion and professional support, and protection of academic freedom.

The two-day strike includes members of the Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition Local 6546 (AFT/IFT, AAUP), which represents 500 full-time teaching, research and clinical faculty. After more than 18 months of attempting to resolve these issues, the union—certified in 2014—has decided that a two-day strike is necessary to get the administration to negotiate a fair contract.

Illinois strikers"Most members have temporary, nine-month contracts, and they've been considered temporary for decades," says Dennis Dullea, English lecturer and vice president of NTFC. "By agreeing to multiyear contracts, stability will substitute for faculty members' annual anxiety over whether they will be employed in the fall, and they can focus on teaching and preparing their courses."

Christina De Angelo, a Spanish and Portuguese faculty member and NTFC leader, says enough is enough. "We have continually asked for support for our teaching, such as having a fair evaluation system outlined in our contract so that we can see our teaching strengths and learn where we need to grow. This is how we can constantly improve our instruction and improve student outcomes," she said.

AFT President Randi Weingarten says the problems at UIUC mirror what's happening on campuses nationwide.

"Across the country, universities are increasingly relying on contingent faculty, but these dedicated educators aren't being treated fairly. That's why educators are coming together—from Chicago to Portland [Ore.] to Philadelphia—to demand fairness," Weingarten says. "At UIUC, non-tenure faculty teach nearly 40 percent of all undergraduate courses, yet they have no guarantee of stable employment year-to-year, no vote on department governance and no evaluations to help them measure or improve their teaching. They want UIUC to remain a place where students receive a high-quality public higher education, but that will only happen with a fair contract."

NTFC President Shawn Gilmore says she understands and respects the fact that some workers, such as clerical workers, might have to cross the line to work as usual. "We encourage them to show solidarity with us by wearing arm bands. We have already received great support from students, student organizations, tenured colleagues and other faculty unions."

Express your solidary with the UIUC faculty.

[Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition]