By Justin Hegy -
Faculty members are going on strike for the first time in the University of Illinois at Chicago’s history after ongoing negotiations with administrators failed.
Although union leadership repeatedly makes the argument that they are fighting for the students, the truth is the students are the ones being hurt by this strike. Some 16,000 undergraduates are now missing classes they paid good money – and often borrowed money – to attend. Tuition has skyrocketed in recent years, yet the faculty wants even higher pay that students will end up covering.
The UIC faculty union is demanding a 4.5 percent pay increase this year, and a minimum of 3.25 percent the following two years.
Complaining about wages, Joe Persky, president of University of Illinois at Chicago United Faculty union said: “Many of the faculty who teach our first-year students only make $30,000 a year.”
That’s stretching the truth.
According to information obtained from a public document request, only about 10 percent of the union’s nontenure-track faculty members working full time make the $30,000 salary bemoaned by the union. Those who make the aforementioned salary are “lecturers” who have to meet less rigorous qualification standards.
That’s worth re-emphasizing. Only one in 10 nontenure-track faculty make the $30,000 salary that the union holds up as unfair. So much for widespread injustice.
The average annual salary for the union’s nontenure-track faculty is $59,000. The union’s tenure-track faculty make an average annual salary of $94,500.
UIC tuition has gone up dramatically in recent years, leading to several years of surpluses. Tuition and fees for students have risen by almost 100 percent in the past 10 years. .The faculty union knows this and now wants a piece of it.
Students are already being hit from all different angles – with sky-high unemployment for recent graduates and an average of$30,000 worth of student debt on their back. How many graduates facing no job projects would jump at the first opportunity to take one of those “low paid” lecture positions with a $30,000 annual salary?
Time and time again public sector unions say they are fighting for the vulnerable, but most of the time it actually amounts to little more than fighting for larger paychecks for themselves. The public pays dearly for this behavior, in the form of lost public services and higher costs.
The UIC administration should hand back any surpluses to students in the form of lower tuition – not to inflate already-high worker salaries.
Justin Hegy is Policy Analyst at the Illinois Policy Institute