Faculty members at Illinois’ only majority-Black public university plan to strike Monday after a last-ditch attempt to reach an agreement with their employers over compensation and workload fell through Saturday.
University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100, representing more than 160 professors, lecturers, and academic and technical support professionals at Chicago State University, has been in negotiations with administrators since June. Their last contract expired in August.
Data from the Illinois Board of Higher Education show Chicago State faculty to be amongst the lowest-paid public university professors in the state.
“I have always had respect for these people,” union leader and chemistry professor Valerie Goss said of university administrators. “And even after all this is done, I will still have respect for them. But I believe right now, somebody’s not paying attention to and not giving as much priority to what’s needed to cultivate the faculty so we can do what we need for our students.”
Located on the Far South Side, Chicago State serves 2,366 undergraduate and graduate students, according to federal data. Nearly 7 out of 10 are Black.
In a written statement Saturday, university leaders said they recognize the dedication and needs of faculty, “But must also ensure that CSU can continue its commitment to our students, staff and community into the future.”
Administrators said they are planning for all student services and for most classes to continue, even if the faculty do go on strike.
“We have contingency plans in place to leverage available instruction resources to minimize the disruption to our students as much as possible,” the university statement said.
Goss said these plans raised eyebrows amongst faculty members.
“They can actually think about and are moving towards hiring people to replace us in the classroom, but not actually putting money towards what would be a fair proposal for us,” she said. “It seems a little bit disingenuous.”
Ninety-eight percent of voting faculty members at Chicago State authorized a strike in early March. Union leaders filed notice of their intent to strike with the state education labor relations board on March 23. Educators and administrators failed to reach an agreement during two bargaining sessions following that date.
The next session is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday.
Lisa Kurian Philip covers higher education for WBEZ Chicago, in partnership with Open Campus.