Non-tenure union experts speak at SIUC

By Gus Bode

Labor leaders from Chicago and Edwardsville came to campus Tuesday to answer questions about a non-tenure track faculty union at SIUC.

The meeting was a part of the lead up to next week’s vote on whether term faculty should organize at SIUC. It comes just short of a year after a similar vote on the Edwardsville campus, which was met with a 71 percent vote of yes.

Alan Shiller is president of SIU-Edwardsville’s newly formed union and made the trip to speak about the benefits of organizing.

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While he does not know much about conditions for his colleagues in Carbondale, he said money was not a motivating factor in Edwardsville’s decision to unionize. The occasional office without a phone, computer or bookcase played a much bigger part.

“I’m not talking about perks,” Shiller said of his union’s request for equipment. “I’m talking about the items we need to do our jobs well.”

Unequal working conditions have also been a complaint by Carbondale organizers.

Joe Berry, who recently wrote a book on the subject, said respect is at the heart of the need to unionize.

Job security, better wages and benefits are all things that come once respect is given, Berry said.

Beverly Stewart, the leader of the term faculty union at Roosevelt University in Chicago, told a story about the change her working conditions went through after a union was born at her school.

Pre-union non-tenure track faculty members were without benefits, representation and even direct deposit, she said. Now that Roosevelt has a union, Stewart said term faculty are taken more seriously and even paid a cancellation fee when they have classes taken away from them.

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There was no representative from the administration present, but Chancellor Walter Wendler has said if employers do their jobs properly than a term faculty union is unnecessary.

Berry, whose non-tenure track faculty experience benefited him so much that he met his spouse at a labor meeting, said supporters of the movement have something to look forward to.

“I predict you will win,” Berry said. “Don’t be overconfident, but I predict you will win.”

Reporter Zack Quaintance can be reached at [email protected]

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