SIUE faculty unionizing, demands state funding

By Kelsey Landis, The Telegraph, Alton, Ill.

With the aim of boosting their sway both on campus and in the state, a group of roughly 400 Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville faculty members announced their intention to unionize Tuesday.

The Faculty Association is the name for the group of tenured and tenure-track faculty pushing to unionize with the help of the Illinois Education Association and the National Education Association (IEA-NEA). Non-tenure track faculty and staff are already unionized at SIUE.

The faculty group has functioned in relation to the IEA-NEA since 2000, but has not had the ability to bargain collectively, and their collaborative suggestions to the university are only “advisory.”


“While we have structures in place for collaboration with administrators on a number of matters, the fact is that at the end of the day, faculty input is always considered advisory,” said Linda Markowitz, campaign co-chair and sociology professor.

Now, faculty members are seeking to unionize “for the purposes of collective bargaining,” according to a press release from the association sent Tuesday. The ability to bargain collectively will give faculty a legally and contractually binding say in determining salaries, benefits and working conditions on campus, according to Markowitz. Faculty would also be able to enforce their operating rules in a crisis situation where programs would close or faculty members terminated or furloughed.

The ongoing state budget crisis is one of the primary reasons the faculty group moved for unionization, said SIUE Faculty Association campaign co-chair and English professor Charles Berger.

MORE: SIUE could see cuts topping $14 million under 2017 budget

“Individuals writing their representatives has its place, but we need to muscle up as a faculty and join other organized groups pressing for fair treatment and respect from the state,” Berger said in a press release. “Political pressure in Springfield, and binding provisions of a union contract at SIUE will guarantee that faculty will have a voice in the future of SIUE.”

Berger said the move to unionize is by no means a negative reflection on the university’s administration.

“At present moment, we have an excellent administration. Nobody has any complaints about the administration. The problem, of course, is Springfield. They’re playing an unbelievable game of hostage with the budget,” Berger said.


The university’s administration issued a statement in support of the faculty.

“We share the faculty’s concern with the state of Illinois. With our history of shared governance at SIUE, we believe that one unified voice will be more effective in positively influencing state legislators in support of higher education,” said Doug McIlhagga, executive director of University Marketing and Communications.

Michael McDermott, the IEA’s higher education director, said the state’s budget impasse “makes it necessary to organize so faculty here can carry out SIUE’s mission. The state’s failure to support higher education with necessary funding is forcing campus administrators to take measures that negatively impact SIUE faculty, staff and its students.”

For faculty members, Berger said the main goal of unionizing is to secure their role in the future of the university.

“For me as a faculty member, it’s really about making sure that we have a defined, binding role in making hard decisions. It’s our duty to strengthen the institution and protect its quality. I believe one way to do that is by forming a union.”

Reporter Kelsey Landis can be reached at 618-208-6460, Ext. 1396 or on Twitter @kelseylandis.


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