CHICAGO (CBS) — Hundreds of faculty members at the University of Illinois at Chicago have begun digging in for a two-day strike, demanding better job security and higher pay, but the school says it just doesn’t have the money for the raises faculty want.
Tenured and non-tenured faculty at UIC hit the picket line Tuesday morning, chanting and carrying signs with their message. They walked off the job Tuesday and planned to remain on strike through Wednesday.
The two-day strike means every student at UIC will miss at least one class. The administration said it planned to have as normal a day as possible.
UIC faculty members unionized in 2012, but have yet to reach a contract agreement with the administration. Each side has said the other doesn’t understand its needs, or frustrations.
Salary has been the biggest issue in contract talks that have stalled after 18 months of negotiations.
The union, which represents nearly 1,200 full-time faculty, has said the school is refusing to offer sufficient pay hikes, despite regular tuition increases.
Non-tenured faculty have a current minimum salary of $30,000 a year. The union is seeking a $45,000 minimum, while the administration has offered a $36,000 minimum.
Virginia Costello is an English professor who has been teaching at UIC for seven years, and has her PhD, but still earns the minimum $30,000 salary for non-tenured faculty.
“It’s embarrassing, quite frankly, and in one sense this strike is a little bit of a relief, because now it’s out in the open,” she said.
UIC economics professor Joseph Persky, who is also president of University of Illinois at Chicago’s United Faculty Local 6456, said they decided to strike to get the administration’s attention after negotiations stalled.
“We know who the soul of the university is. It’s faculty and students, and we know that the Board of Trustees has not been doing right by either one of us,” Persky said at a rally on the UIC campus on Tuesday.
UIC Provost Lon Kaufman said the university can’t increase tuition again to meet the faculty’s demands.
“We don’t know the future of the state and its budget. We can’t raise tuition any higher than we already have, even in the face of budget cuts,” he said.
Faculty were picketing outside several buildings on the UIC campus, and planned to continue picketing until 4 p.m. Tuesday, and then return at 10:45 a.m. on Wednesday.
UIC administrators reminded faculty, although they have a right to strike, they don’t have to.
The strike does not include graduate or teaching assistants, who are members of a different union. Professors at UIC’s medical, dentistry, and pharmacy schools also are not affected.