Demonstrators representing non-tenured track faculty (NTT) at Loyola’s College of Arts and Sciences threatened to strike April 4 if a bargaining agreement with the administration isn’t reached.
Non-tenured track faculty don’t receive the same pay or benefits as tenured faculty and aren’t eligible for promotions to tenured positions, which they say unfairly burdens them by forcing them to take multiple jobs and pay for some health care themselves.
“As an adjunct [professor], it was really, really difficult for me because I had to run between two different schools [and] one semester I was running between three different schools to make sure I could pay my bills,” said Sarita Heer, a professor in Loyola’s art department.
Heer worked as an adjunct professor for four years and is now a full-time professor on a one-year contract. “I said hallelujah when Obamacare started, because that was the year I graduated from my PhD program and I knew I was not going to have healthcare.”
Around 50 people gathered at a press conference outside the northwest entrance to Loyola’s campus on North Sheridan Road to show support for NTT faculty and make it clear they intend to take action if Loyola continues what demonstrators described as intentional delays to avoid making an agreement.
“The bargaining process here has been ridiculously slow,” Heer said. “The university has been trying the old tactic of ‘stall, stall, stall,’ and they think we don’t have teeth. And now with authorizing the strike vote, I think they’re going to sit up and take us seriously and try to move this process faster.”
NTT faculty, represented by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, have been trying to negotiate a contract with Loyola since 2016, but say their efforts have been obstructed by the administration at every turn. They voted to unionize in January 2016 and were recognized by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) — a federal organization that oversees organized labor disputes — but Loyola appealed the decision twice, saying the school isn’t subject to NLRB rules as a religious institution.
SEIU is one of the largest service employee unions in the country with about two million members nationwide.
Alyson Paige Warren, an organizer with Faculty Forward Loyola, the group leading the negotiations with Loyola’s administration, said the university has refused to negotiate in good faith.
“The bargaining process hasn’t been so much of a process as it has been a slog,” said Warren, an adjunct professor who’s been at Loyola in the English department for 11 years. “Two years ago we voted overwhelmingly to unionize. The university decided to meet that not with good will, but instead by appealing the NLRB’s decision twice.”
Graduate students at Loyola also voted to unionize in 2016, but the university said it wouldn’t negotiate with them because they’re not considered employees under federal law.
The negotiations have progressed, but organizers said Loyola has tried to stall the talks. Demonstrators staged a sit-in in the Damen Student Center in December 2017 and said they plan to continue speaking out.
Senior Loyola student Paloma Fernandez, an organizer of the #NOTMYLOYOLA movement created in response to alleged widespread racial profiling by Loyola Campus Safety, spoke at the press conference.
“We are here today in solidarity with the graduate student union and faculty union,” Fernandez said. “Many of our faculty are living on poverty wages and we support them taking action to win real improvements on campus because we know that when our professors are cared for, we students benefit in the classroom.”
In an email to The PHOENIX, Loyola communication specialist Evangeline Politis said the university wants to avoid a strike.
“Loyola University Chicago does not want a strike and is highly disappointed that SEIU Local 73 is threatening a strike, particularly when we are making steady progress at the table and have multiple bargaining sessions scheduled throughout the semester,” Politis said in the statement. “A strike would disrupt our students’ education and the campus overall. Instead, we wish that SEIU would focus, as Loyola is, on working quickly to reach an agreement.
Union organizers will meet with administrators Monday to continue discussion of potential terms, but Politis said the university is prepared for a strike if it comes.
“We are prepared with a comprehensive plan to ensure all Loyola buildings will be open during a strike, and University operations will continue as usual,” Politis said in the statement. “We hope that our faculty do not choose to walk out on their students.”