Collective bargaining with the SEIU
This message was sent in response to faculty members who signed a petition concerning ongoing union negotiations.
From: Jason Merchant, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
Subject: Collective bargaining with the SEIU
Date: March 12, 2018
I am writing in response to your recent petition expressing support for our non-tenure track colleagues, as these colleagues negotiate their first collective bargaining agreement. Like you, I (and your other colleagues on the bargaining team) also support fair pay for our colleagues represented by SEIU, as well as access to the resources necessary to support their extraordinary role in the education of our students. I appreciate the opportunity to update you on the substantial progress that the union and the University have made as we work together towards a first contract that embodies these shared goals, and to provide you with more information about the status and content of our recent proposals. I also want to correct several inaccuracies in information that has appeared in public.
In your petition, you raised questions about pay, workload and benefits. The two sides agreed at the outset to save these issues until the end of negotiations. We have recently reached that stage, and are making encouraging progress. In just the last week the University proposed a comprehensive package deal with wide-ranging improvements on these matters for lecturers and the students whom they teach. This is in addition to numerous important areas where the University and the union have already reached agreement over the course of the negotiations, covering subjects including academic freedom, grievance procedures, union rights and the establishment of a collaborative labor-management committee. Significantly, the parties have also reached agreement on a classification system that recognizes differentiated lecturer ranks, and the ability to progress to higher ranked positions that come with increased pay and appointments as long as five years.
Our proposals would place lecturers at the University at or near the top of the pay range compared to their peers across the country. For full-time lecturers, we have proposed a scale of minimum salaries that raises the current minimums by more than 40%, to $57,000, rising to a minimum of $69,848 in the third year of the contract for the highest rank of lecturer.
Please remember that these are only minimums: many lecturers already earn above these, and in no case would anyone’s pay decrease. Under the University’s current proposal, lecturers earning above the minimums will be eligible for merit increases of at least 2% and up to 4%. Per-course pay for lecturers who teach part-time would also increase, by between 25 and 30%.
As part of the University’s package proposal, we have proposed that that every full-time lecturer be compensated for time spent in developing expertise in their subjects and in the pedagogy of those subjects. Beyond that, the duties of lecturers vary widely across the University, with some lecturers primarily teaching undergraduates, and others also responsible for managing a program of instruction, coordinating courses with multiple sections and personnel, and other duties. As a result, the number of courses they teach varies as well: full-time lecturers currently may teach as few as four courses, or as many as seven, depending on what other responsibilities they have. Contrary to the concern expressed in your petition, no one is being asked to increase their workload by 33% with static pay; rather the parties are discussing in a comprehensive manner what sort of duties make up a full-time workload beyond classroom instruction.
The duties we have proposed that the University may assign to a lecturer, and our levels of proposed compensation, compare very favorably to similar positions across the United States: at Yale and Columbia, for example, the standard course load equivalent for a full-time language lecturer is nine courses, and the entry salaries are between $55,000 and $60,000 per year.
Full-time lecturers already have healthcare benefits like those of faculty. If the Union accepts the University’s package, per-course lecturers with 2 consecutive one-quarter appointments of 50% effort will also receive medical, dental, and vision benefits. Under the same package, per-course lecturers who do not work 50% effort over at least two consecutive quarters will receive cash subsidies to offset healthcare costs.
Full-time lecturers are eligible for the University of Chicago College Tuition Remission benefit, and they receive up to 85% off tuition for their children at the Lab School. Under the University’s package proposal, full-time lecturers will also receive the same parental leave that tenure-track faculty enjoy.
We are also proposing additional support for immigration, including the possibility of sponsoring lecturers for green cards and assuming the full cost for the expenses related to applications for green cards.
We are confident that these proposals will ensure that the University of Chicago will continue to be able to attract and retain the talented and valued pedagogues that make a Chicago education the extraordinary experience it is. We are hopeful that the union will agree, and we look forward to a successful conclusion to negotiations on this first contract.
Policy and Administration