This Union 101 Information Sheet is designed to provide background for potential UPI members so they can better understand WIU UPI 4100 and learn about the efforts to bring collective bargaining to unrepresented staff at Western Illinois University. Included in this document are answers to the following questions:
- Can a union bargain for new types of compensation?
- Can WIU impose unpaid furloughs under collective bargaining?
- JOB SECURITY
- How can a union affect job security if layoffs are threatened?
- WORK ENVIRONMENT
- How will a union affect relationships between staff and administrators?
- How can a union protect me from bullying?
What is a union?
A union is a group of people coming together to advance their common interests. A union is a democracy that members create, and broad participation from everyone makes a union most effective.
- The union is a 501-c4 non-profit organization chartered by the American Federation of Teachers. The Illinois Federation of Teachers is the statewide affiliate that exists to improve the lives of its members and their families, to give voice to their aspirations, to strengthen the institutions where they work, to improve the quality of services members provide, and to assist and support each other.
What is UPI?
The University Professionals of Illinois, Local 4100 -- along with our affiliates IFT, AFT, the Illinois AFL-CIO, and the national AFL-CIO -- is a recognized leader in academic collective bargaining for higher education in Illinois, representing faculty and/or staff at seven of the 12 Illinois public universities at the bargaining table. They are: Western Illinois University, Eastern Illinois University, Northeastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, Chicago State University, Governors State University, and University of Illinois – Springfield.
UPI has mastered the difficult task of drawing together the collective strength of public higher education's faculty and staff while protecting and enhancing the distinctive features of each university. UPI's campus leaders are effective advocates for UPI's nearly 3,000 members.
According to the UPI Constitution, the objectives of UPI Local 4100 are:
- To utilize collective bargaining and other appropriate means to develop mutual assistance and cooperation for faculty, academic professionals, and other staff of Illinois public universities.
- To obtain for faculty, academic professionals, and other staff the rights to which they are entitled.
- To secure and protect academic freedom, tenure, and faculty governance.
- To secure the conditions essential to the best professional growth and service.
- To promote the welfare of the students in the public universities of Illinois by providing progressively better educational opportunity.
Who is the IFT-AFT?
- UPI is part of the AFT-IFT family. Each member will have the backing of more than 103,000 IFT members and 1.4 million AFT members. The AFT-IFT will help a union negotiate and enforce a contract and give guidance in other areas as needed.
- The IFT and AFT are resource centers that provide services such as professional development programs, leadership training, grievance and arbitration assistance, contract negotiations, lobbying, and personal services. The services will help a union run effectively and efficiently.
What are my rights to form a union under the law?
(115 ILCS 5/3) (from Ch. 48, par. 1703)
Sec. 3. Employee rights. (a) It shall be lawful for educational employees to organize, form, join, or assist in employee organizations or engage in lawful concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection or bargain collectively through representatives of their own free choice and, except as provided in Section 11, such employees shall also have the right to refrain from any or all such activities.
(b) Representatives selected by educational employees in a unit appropriate for collective bargaining purposes shall be the exclusive representative of all the employees in such unit to bargain on wages, hours, terms and conditions of employment. However, any individual employee or a group of employees may at any time present grievances to their employer and have them adjusted without the intervention of the bargaining representative as long as the adjustment is not inconsistent with the terms of a collective bargaining agreement then in effect, provided that the bargaining representative has been given an opportunity to be present at such adjustment. (Source: P.A. 83-1014.)
Are there legal restrictions concerning what administrators may say or do during a period of unionization activities?
Yes. Department heads and other administrative officials cannot threaten, promise, interrogate, or conduct surveillance concerning individual members’ interests in or support for a union. However, administrative officials may express opinions about unionization.
What is collective bargaining?
- Under the law, once a union is certified, you have the right to negotiate over hours of work, wages, and working conditions.
- At a workplace where a majority of the employees have voted for union representation, a committee elected by the union board negotiates a collective agreement with management that applies to all individuals in the workplace unit.
- Collective bargaining contrasts with individual bargaining, where management offers each worker whatever it desires. As individuals, most employees have very little power, so management is able to arbitrarily impose their wishes.
- When employees negotiate collectively as a group, their power is roughly equal to management.
- Once the union committee and management have agreed on a contract, it is then put to a vote of all union members. If approved, the contract is usually in force for a fixed term of years, and then is renegotiated.
- During the term of the agreement, disputes often arise concerning interpretation of the agreement:
- Was an employee disciplined for just cause?
- Has management fairly assigned awards?
- Has management fulfilled its obligations under the agreement’s provisions concerning such things as health and safety, compensation for additional work, assignment of work?
- Has management followed due process in promotion decisions?
- Has management followed due process in layoffs?
- Has management followed approved upon work load guidelines?
Under individual contracts, the final decision is made by management alone.
- Under collective bargaining, if such disputes cannot be resolved by the parties through the grievance process, they are submitted to arbitration.
- Arbitration is similar to an informal court hearing; a neutral, expert arbitrator rules whether the alleged contract breach has occurred, and if it has, orders a remedy to make the aggrieved employees whole.
Can a union bargain for new types of compensation?
- With a union, administrators can no longer unilaterally impose compensation practices.
- Members have an equal voice and must agree to all practices.
- Depending on what a majority of the members want, some of the possibilities found in other union contracts include —
- Adjustments for salary compression,
- Adjustments for market value,
- Minimum salaries by rank and years of service,
- Minimum stipends and teaching releases for non-supervisory administrative roles
Can WIU impose unpaid furloughs under collective bargaining?
No! There would be no unpaid furloughs without impact bargaining. The administration cannot impose furloughs on staff represented by a union contract; the union must first agree to them.
How can a union affect job security if layoffs are threatened?
- A union can bargain for contract clauses such as the following:
- Financial conditions under which layoffs are allowed
- Order of layoff
- Layoff notice and extra termination pay
- Transfer to avoid layoff
- Through the grievance process up to and including binding arbitration by an outside neutral party, the union can assure that due process and adherence to contract terms have been followed.
Without a union, management can layoff staff with no verification of claims they make about “financial crises.”
How will a union affect relationships between staff and administrators?
- Arbitrary, unfair, and dictatorial managers and supervisors will have to adjust, making non-arbitrary and unbiased decisions or facing formal grievance procedures that protect staff members.
- In case of grievances, the union will represent the member, and a neutral, outside arbitrator, not an administrator, will make the final, binding decision.
How can a union protect me from bullying?
At the present time, UPI does not have provisions explicitly intended to protect employees against workplace bullying. This is changing. WIU UPI, with input from members, will attempt to negotiate a provision to address bullying in the next contract. Without such contractual protection against bullying, and because employees aren’t legally/contractually entitled to grieve the actions of other employees (i.e., grievances are between employers and employees legally), incidents of workplace bullying at the campus level have been viewed customarily as complaints made by individuals who have felt or viewed themselves as bullied. Strictly and contractually speaking, employers haven’t been required to address such complaints as their responsibility, even though state and federal laws require safe, harassment-free workplace environments. Common sense tells us that workplace bullying will affect a workplace environment negatively.
For more information, email us at: UPILocal4100wiuchapter@gmail.com