Jonathan Huskey

Issued December 09, 2015

University of Chicago Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Vote to Join SEIU

An overwhelming majority of non-tenure-track faculty at the University of Chicago have voted to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, becoming the first unionized contingent faculty under the SEIU Faculty Forward Chicago banner.

Ballots for the union election were counted by the National Labor Relations Board this morning, after an all-mail ballot election. The 81% vote in favor of forming a union shows that faculty at the City of Chicago’s largest private employer, as well as other private Chicago universities and colleges, want to have a voice on important issues impacting their lives and the lives of their students.

“Winning our union election shows that we’re all in this together; it is in everyone’s interest to reverse the trends that have marginalized our profession,” said Darcy Lear, a lecturer at the University of Chicago. “I'm glad that our success today may help empower other part-time and full-time faculty to change the status quo for their families and students. We are thankful for the support of hundreds of tenured faculty, students and alumni who stood with us every step of the way.”

Chicago is the latest major metro area to join what has become a fast-growing union movement, as faculty has come together to take on a crisis in higher education that has turned what was once a good middle-class profession into a job without stability or a voice in many workplace decisions. More than 10,000 faculty at dozens of schools across the country have voted to join SEIU in the past three years. In addition to University of Chicago, faculty at Loyola University Chicago have filed a petition to form their union, and contingent faculty have filed for union elections with SEIU at the University of Southern California and Brandeis University this fall. Other full-time faculty are engaged in active SEIU Faculty Forward union campaigns, including Duke University and the University of Minnesota.

“Our victory today will enhance our school’s reputation and renew focus on our peerless quality of instruction, said Jason Grunebaum, a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago. “We are excited that the university’s Harper-Schmidt Fellows and our colleagues at Loyola University Chicago, plus a number of important schools across the country, are on their way to forming their own unions and making the same commitment to raising standards in higher education that we have made today.”