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Illinois State University faculty file for union membership

A brick sign in twilight with the inscription "Illinois State University" on the side.
Eric Stock
WGLT file
Faculty at Illinois State University have filed an intent to unionize with a state labor board.

Illinois State University faculty expect to have union representation by the end of the year.

About 650 tenured and tenured-track faculty on Wednesday filed an intent to unionize with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board.

Union leaders kicked off a campaign on the ISU campus in August, though organizers say the unionizing effort has been ongoing for two years.

United Faculty of ISU (UFISU) says on its website “an unstoppable majority have chosen to stand together to form our faculty union.” Authorization from a majority of faculty is required for union approval.

“It’s a really exciting moment for us,” ISU assistant professor of teaching and learning Xiaoying Zhao said in a news release from the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT). “Today we have taken the necessary steps to formalize our union and send a clear message that the faculty at ISU want a strong voice to advocate for the needs of our students, this institution, and our colleagues who are dedicated to them both.”

Zhao also told a gathering at the August rally that faculty also were seeking “fair" wages and raises.

“We demand respect and dignity,” Zhao said.

ISU spokesperson Eric Jome said in a statement: “Illinois State University respects the legal right of University tenured and tenure-line faculty members to seek union representation under the processes set forth in the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act.”

He added the administration is aware of the faculty’s announcement that it has filed, but as of Wednesday afternoon the university has not received notification by the labor relations board.

ISU horticulture professor Dave Kopsell said joining a union is the best way to ensure safe, fair and equitable working conditions and to bolster resources for students and staff.

"There's a lot of need on campus and the faculty have committed to this unionization effort because they don't feel like they are getting the resources they need," said Kopsell, adding the union also wants to address pay disparities among faculty.

"It seems to me like a lot of the salaries that professors earn depend on what degree they have, or what department they are teaching in," he said.

If approved, UFISU would join the IFT, University Professionals of Illinois (UPI), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

“Fall may be here, but it is great to see that the ‘hot labor summer’ is continuing in Illinois,” said IFT President Dan Montgomery. “Like so many thousands of working people have done in recent months, these dedicated faculty are standing up for fairness, equity, and excellence by forming a member-driven union."

The group says it expects to be certified as a union by December.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.
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