Non-tenure-track professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on Tuesday began a planned two-day strike over stalled negotiations regarding their first union contract. Shawn Gilmore, lecturer in English and president of the American Federation of Teachers- and American Association of University Professors-affiliated non-tenure-track-faculty union, said in an interview that the union would have preferred to continue negations over striking. “But the university has made very little in the way of overtures to bargain or settle outside issues,” he said. Of particular concern to the union is standardized, multiyear contracts for eligible faculty members. Participation in shared governance and assurances of academic freedom also are key.
Robin Kaler, a university spokesperson, said the strike seemed “fairly limited in scope.” While the union wasn’t keeping track of participants, Gilmore said a midday rally saw several hundred attendees, and members plan to continue picketing today.
The university said in a statement that although “we continue to believe a strike is not in the best interests of our specialized faculty members, our students or the campus, we respect the right of each specialized faculty member to decide whether or not to participate. Our goal has always been, and continues to be, to work with the [Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition] to reach a fair and equitable contract.”
While the university supports multiyear contracts, the statement said, individual academic units “are best positioned to award multiyear contracts, as they best know their unique curricular needs and financial capacity. Multiyear contracts should be awarded based on performance, evaluation and merit, not centrally mandated and automatically granted based on the amount of time someone has worked here.”