SIUE faculty union speaks out as contract talks sputter

Contract expired last June


SIUE FACULTY MEMBERS joined in a rally April 14 in front of the chancellor’s office to call out the university’s byzantine plan to tie salaries to enrollment increases. – Labor Tribune photo

Edwardsville, IL – This has been a year of difficult contract negotiations for state university faculties all over Illinois, with some already on strike and others, as at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, coping with frustrating, nonproductive meetings with university officials.

Contract talks have been held on and off for more than a year.

Last week, after another difficult Friday afternoon contract meeting, leaders of the SIUE Faculty Association rallied with more than 50 members in front of the administration building, where Union President Dr. Edward Navarre, a chemistry professor, delivered a gloomy report.

“The proposal did not make us enthusiastic,” he said in a nice bit of understatement to describe SIUE’s latest salary proposals, which would tie future raises to increased enrollment, something over which the faculty has little or no control.

“The best they could offer, if we met all of the maximum enrollment increases in this coming year and each of the two years following that, would be to propose 600 students beyond what we had this past fall,” Navarre explained.

“That would get us about a 9.5 percent salary increase over four years – barely addressing the inflation we are experiencing today. And it requires getting 600 more faces here in each of those years.”

Workloads and salaries are still under discussion, he said.

“We’re still working on the workload stuff,’ Navarre said. “The salary proposals did not make us enthusiastic.”

The university had previously linked salary increases to increased total university income.

“The sense of contingent salary increases remains,” Navarre said. “It’s not linked, as it was before, to the total income, but to enrollment now. I don’t think the faculty have complete control over how many people get recruited to come here. We would be in a situation where our salary increase is tied to the work of, in a sense, the entire campus.

“The same things that make running the university more expensive make our lives more expensive every day,” he added. “We’re trying to simply keep up, and 10 percent over four years isn’t going to do that. They’re treating the faculty very badly right now.”

Union leaders said the administration under Chancellor James Minor has been mistreating the faculty in its drive to increase enrollment and balance its budget. Qualifiers and exceptions have been attached to any proposed raises.

“Effectively, the only salary offer we are getting from this chancellor is zero,” said music professor and union negotiator Kim Archer, who called upon the union members to prepare to tell their own stories to win public support.

“You each know a story about some stupid thing that’s going on right now, because this chancellor is telling your bargaining team that faculty are not a priority,” she said. “We teach the students, we make this institution run, and we’re not a priority?

“You each know a story about how that’s playing out in your lives and in your students’ lives. The single most powerful thing you can do as a citizen is to send a letter to the editor.”

One student’s letter caused a major buzz in the Music Department, she said.

“You each know something that has gone on. You know a grad assistant who isn’t going to be renewed for a second year because of the cuts. You know about class sizes that have gone over what is pedagogically sane. You know about your situation and how your lack of a raise is affecting you. You know about your non-tenure track colleagues who are at starvation wages right now.

“Whatever it is, send a letter to the editor. They can’t fire you. You’re a citizen and you can do that,” Archer said. “The more the public knows how this chancellor is balancing a budget on the backs of the people of SIUE, the less he’s going to be able to get away with doing that. Right now, his biggest strength is that nobody knows what he’s doing.”

Navarre said the union will bring a counter-proposal on salary, workloads and other issues to the table on April 28, and asked the members and their families to make sure they attend graduation ceremonies to show support for the union.

“We need to get away from this sense that enrollment and fervor for balancing the budget are the primary objectives of the university. The primary objective is to invest in our students. That’s what we’re here for.”

“The more we show up with the backing of the faculty – a clearly united and collective faculty – the more that our voice is taken seriously at the table,” he added. “Our counter-proposal weighs more with every member that we have. That’s why we’re doing it, and that’s why you all showed up.”


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