Current state of play at the University of Illinois mediation with NTFC Local 6546 (NTT faculty), according to an email to the union membership from lead negotiator Kay Emmert:
"While we're willing to accept current statutes for academic freedom, their offer on multi-year contracts doesn't contain language that can be enforced. We remain committed to working to find a pathway to creating the same protections for our members here at UIUC as our colleagues at UIC have, a fair and just contract., The administration has made little movement on the issues that are most important to us: multi-year contracts and reappointment rights. They merely want to codify the status quo."
If provisional and unenforceable suggestions were enough for UIUC faculty, we would have no need for a union. The administration had decades, before a union even formed, to demonstrate their concern for NTT faculty. Had that concern taken the concrete form (appointment procedures, shared governance provisions, support for departments wanting to offer multiyear contracts), a union never would have happened. Unions are a legal way for workers to get the working conditions they need to do their jobs. Three years ago, there was little reason to believe that the U of I administration would improve working NTT conditions on their own, so a union was certified two years ago.
As the union began to take shape, so did policy statements that codified a hypothetical concern for NTT working conditions, without offering any requirements or resources that would turn that concern into meaningful change. Provost Communications 25 and 26 have, in two years, produced multiyear contracts for 19 of approximately 500 NTT faculty. Everything is, as it had always been, at the discretion of departments to determine without any recourse for faculty or incentives and resources for anyone to improve their working conditions.
The administration's actions and language at the bargaining table have only affirmed the conviction of many NTTs that they were correct to put their trust in labor law and union organization rather than the university's empty professions of concern. Why can we not have the same protections as our counterparts in Chicago? The administration's bargaining team has been startlingly frank about that: UIC has to compete with other Chicago-area institutions of higher learning for faculty. UIUC does not.
The bottom line here at the state flagship is not excellence, innovation, teaching, or research: it is, nakedly and unabashedly, the bottom line. It's a line that is bad for students, bad for education, and bad for the mission of the university.