The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board on Thursday certified the SIUE Faculty Association-IEA/NEA as the exclusive bargaining representative for some 400 tenured and tenure track faculty Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE). The union drive started just before the start of the 2015-2016 academic year at SIUE, with the budget stalemate in Springfield feeding already-heightened concerns by faculty, staff and students about adequate state support.
“Some Illinois universities were in danger of closing their doors altogether,” said SIUE Music professor Kim Archer, elected president at the Faculty Association’s first membership meeting in early November. “SIUE’s rising enrollment and cash reserves helped us avoid the kind of layoffs and cutbacks suffered at Eastern, Western and Chicago State – but our administration continues to face hard choices here. We organized to ensure a place at the table when hard decisions need to be made,” Archer said.
Archer also stressed that forming the new SIUE faculty union strengthens coalitions of public employee unions and university administrators in holding the state accountable. Among the battles are proposed cutbacks in hard-earned pension benefits – forestalled for now – and the specter of increased health care premiums.
“Our efforts were not aimed at local university policies or administrators,” said SIUE Management & Marketing professor Mary Sue Love, SIUE FA’s newly elected vice-president. “There is much to be done on campus, however, to enhance and maintain educational quality. We seek to do this by working together where we can with colleagues in the Faculty Senate. As a union we can also address basic employment concerns, which will boost morale and recognize the hard work of our faculty.”
The Illinois Education Association-NEA will now represent nearly 900 SIUE employees, with the Faculty Association joining three other IEA locals of Non-Tenure Track Faculty, Professional Staff, and Technical Staff. With more than 130,000 members, IEA serves public education faculty and staff at all levels, from early childhood programs through doctoral degree-granting institutions.
According to IEA Higher Education Director Michael McDermott, “Several dozen hardworking activists played the major part in this success, meeting with faculty individually, writing and distributing materials, sponsoring informational events, and staffed tables on campus for faculty to ask questions and learn more between classes.”
The “Majority Interest Petition” to create the union was supported by a majority of SIUE professors. State labor law enables employees to secure collective bargaining rights when more than 50 percent of those to be represented sign a form with state-prescribed language authorizing collective bargaining rights. When a majority of the proposed “bargaining unit” sign these forms, no election on the question of representation is necessary. While many of the supporters signed union authorization statements, most of them became actual members of the union – the state accepts both as proof of faculty support for unionization. The Faculty Association chose this avenue over ballot voting to ensure a true majority would decide the question.
Adds Archer, “Many still weighing the new situation will come around when we speak with them about bargaining concerns and remind them that strength in numbers means a better union contract – and that helps everybody.”
Please go to siuefa.org for more information and background on the SIUE Faculty Association-IEA/NEA