The Chicago Story: The Spread of Contingent Union Ferment

BY PETER N. KIRSTEIN

A spectre is haunting Chicago–the spectre is academic unionism. Both the University of Chicago and Loyola University Chicago have witnessed the rise of contingent faculty organising success. Now at Northwestern University, a placid campus in Evanston, part-time faculty and non-tenure track full time faculty are moving rapidly in that direction.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Northwestern-contingent faculty filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board (N.L.R.B.) to organise under the spreading banner of the Service Employees International Union Local 73. The S.E.I.U. had recently gained representational authority at both Loyola and the U. of C. The union has become the 800-pound gorilla, hopefully spared execution, in representing contingent faculty in their demands for fair pay, better working conditions and respect as academicians. The S.E.I.U.s “Faculty Forward” campaign was launched in 2013, and according to the Tribune, has been the driving force in fifty-three organisational drives across the country of which fifty-one were successful.

While the outcome of the Northwestern faculty-labour petition for N.L.R.B. certification has not been effectuated, I am confident the N.L.R.B. will exercise better judgment than their egregious denial last August of the Northwestern football players’ union bid.

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