As we enter our tenth year, and prepare to bargain our third contract, we remain committed to ensuring that all Specialized Faculty at UIUC find security for their livelihood, loved ones, and labor. Being an NTT does not mean we failed to thrive in academia. It means we hold this institution together without fanfare.
We also seek to inform all Bargaining Unit Members of your legal rights and of our efforts on your behalf. We hope you will support us as a member, or, if you are ineligible for membership, via solidarity action and/or solidarity donation.
Like all unions, the particular social and material conditions of our labor germinated our coalition. As non-tenure track faculty (NTTs), we felt disrespected and undervalued by tenure-stream faculty and the administration. We were not tenure-track faculty, yet we were expected to do much of the same work as them for less compensation and fewer benefits. Some of us made as little as $25,000 or $30,000 a year despite working in a deeply professionalized industry.
In 2011, a few NTTs banded together to start to tackle some of these issues. With the help of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers, and the American Association of University Professors, these early organizers spoke with faculty all over campus about their working conditions and their issues. After a concerted organizing effort in the Spring of 2014, these NTTs petitioned the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board to be recognized as the sole representative union for NTT faculty on May 15, 2014. The IELRB granted our request on July 8, 2014. We began bargaining in October 2014, then passed a constitution and elected our first slate of officers later that Fall.
That fall, the administration denied faculty their wage increases promised under the 2014-2015 campus wage program. The administration claimed that any changes in wages would need to be negotiated. NTFC pursued an unfair labor practice charge against the administration, and we were willing to allow said raises to go into effect outside of the bargaining process. Ultimately, the 2014 wage program became part of the 2014-2019 contract, and bargaining-unit members received these raises.
Throughout 2015, we continued negotiating with the administration over our first contract. This year saw much progress, but also a lot of frustration. We gave consistent ground on issues like appointment length, reappointment, extra-contractual work, academic freedom, and professional development, but did not see the administration giving anything in return. As a result, NTFC filed for federal mediation in the contract negotiation process.
Mediation began in the spring of 2016. While we tried to reach a deal at the table, we found we were still too far apart on the issues that mattered most to our members. The state at the time was in the middle of a historic budget impasse, and the administration claimed that the economic uncertainty made it difficult to agree to many of our proposals. Amid growing frustration from our members with the process, our union called a vote to strike. With an overwhelming majority, members said yes, and we prepared for intensive labor action.
After nearly a year and a half of bargaining, our members went out on strike on April 19th and 20th, 2016. With the support of students, other faculty, staff, and community members, we shut down several campus buildings and held successful pickets for two straight days. While the strike was hard for us and our students, we found that most of them supported us when we explained why were striking. At the end of the two days, we planned another, possibly five-day strike to start April 29th.
But, before the April 29th strike could happen–victory! In negotiations just after our two-day strike, we bargained our first Tentative Agreement. We took this TA back to our members for a vote, and they overwhelmingly voted to ratify it. Our 2016 strike victory earned us our first contract!