Labor and the University
Welcome! SOUL created this website as part of our presentation at UCSC's annual Student Activist Conference, which took place on January 22, 2011. We decided to put together this website after noticing that it's very difficult to find information on the university's labor interactions, even though the UofC employs some 14,772 individuals. Here you'll find links to news articles, tax reports, and a total of five union contracts. While this site is by no means exhaustive, we hope it helps to close the information gap, and look forward to hearing what your thoughts.
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The Clerical staff is one of the largest sectors within the University. The Clerical Staff, along with the maintenance and service staff, recently underwent negotiations for their new contract; the agreement between the union and the University that decides everything from salaries to job security. Although the first contract offered by the university included a cost of living increase which was less than inflation (which would have resulted in a decrease in real wages), the university finally agreed to an acceptable contract in August, 2010. This new contract will be in effect until February 29th, 2012. Improvements in the most recent contract include a set timeline for the university to respond to worker grievances, a reclassification of the lowest paid workers, and an improved "bumping" policy (full details here).
The University of Chicago Clerical workers are not the only ones fighting for better working conditions. The University of California and the Coalition of University Employees are also fighting for a fair contract. These workers have seen their wages decline and are being dangerously over worked. Local 355 of Connecticut, administrative clerical employees are part of national coalition against the American Red Cross also fighting for better working conditions, and went on a strike on June of 2010.
Construction workers are not directly employed by the university, rather they are indirectly employed through contractors and sub-contractors. But this does not mean that they unaffected by labor issues of their own. In the Summer of 2010, Local 150 of the Union of Operating Engineers, which represents construction workers throughout Chicago, went on strike demanding a wage increase corresponding to an increase in their cost of living. This strike led to a halt in construction for several weeks on the Mansueto Library, the Lab School renovation, the Logan Arts Center, the UChicago Hospital new Medical Pavilion, and the new Chicago Theological Seminary building.
The Dining hall and Coffee Shop workers too are unionized under Local 743, although under a separate contract. The current contract that the food service workers are under was signed in July of 2008 and is due to expire mid 2011. Campaign work has begun for the dining hall& coffee shop worker contract negotiations; SOUL has hosted worker breakfast to be familiar with the workers and has handed out summaries of their current contract to them. The last campaign held in 2008 for the dining hall and coffee shop workers was a great success. Success is what United Students Against Sweatshops hopes to achieve through their ongoing campaign against Sodexo. Sodexo is a French food service company, similar to Aramark, the food service provider for the University of Chicago. Reports by human rights NGOs including TransAfrica Forum and Human Rights Watch revealed Sodexo to have a persistent global pattern of violating the most basic rights of its workers. Universities across the nation are fighting to put an end to Sodexo’s practices by requesting they be removed from their campus. Four student activist are also currently in Paris forming ties with French student organizations to mobilize support for their efforts to end these human rights violations by Sodexo. To learn more about this campaign, or to get involved visit www.usas.org.
*Numbers based on 2007-2008 tax returns. For more information, download the university 53 page file here. Administrator compensation begins on page 19.
The University employs both undergraduate and graduate students in a variety of job positions. Various cafés on campus – Cobb Coffee Shop, Common Knowledge Café, Ex-Libris Coffee Shop, and Hallowed Grounds – are staffed entirely by students. Students also work in both work-study and non work-study positions in a variety of departments and buildings, including (but not limited to) all academic divisions, IT services, residence halls, the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, the Office of the Bursar, the Oriental Institute and the Smart Museum of Art. Employment in these departments and building may involve research, teaching, and technical, clerical, or marketing work. Students are limited by University policy to working a maximum of 19.5 hours per week, though certain doctoral students may gain permission to work additional hours.
Since the spring of 2007, U of C graduate students have had the option to be represented by Graduate Students United (GSU), an independent organization of graduate students that works to mediate graduate students’ relations with the University. Since its formation, GSU members have made some very impressive gains. In 2008, they earned 100% pay increases for TAs, some of whom had previously been among the worst-paid TAs in the nation. At this point, they also gained substantial pay increases for other teaching jobs. In 2009, GSU responded to serious problems that graduate students were experiencing with their healthcare programs. After holding various public meetings and forming a coalition with other groups, the University improved services at the SCC dramatically. GSU continues to work for increased teaching opportunity for graduate students, better student care services, and lower tuition rates.
In June of 2010, members of GSU voted overwhelmingly (with a 97% yes vote) to affiliate with a larger union. The affiliation referendum also showed that members would prefer joint affiliation with the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors. The process of affiliating with these unions officially is still in progress.
GSU’s affiliation decision occurred against a backdrop of important changes in national policy regarding graduate students’ unionization. In 2004, the National Labor Relations Board saw a case involving the unionization of graduate students at Brown University; the Board ruled that graduate students at private universities were not covered by collective bargaining rights established under the National Labor Relations Act. In 2005, this decision was used to deny graduate students at New York University the right to affiliate with the United Auto Workers. However, the NLRB changed its stance in October 2010. This decision will pave the way for GSU to gain the University’s recognition of its affiliation with AFT and AAUP.
Similar to the clerical staff, Maintenance workers maintain the University of Chicago campus running. They work in every building on campus including the University of Chicago Hospitals. The contract agreed to between the Local 743 and the University covers the Maintenance Employees of the University of Chicago, which will also be in effect until February 29th, 2012. One of the current struggles the maintenance workers of the Resident Halls & Commons face is a decrease of hours in their work-week. They went from working 40 to 35, which means an 8% decrease in their pay check! To learn more about this campaign contact Lizbeth at CordovaL06@uchicago.edu
The University of Chicago Police Department is represented by the Unit 185 of the Illinois Police Benevolent and Protective Association which itself is a member of the National Association of Police Organizations. The NAPO has been instrumental in the passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act and the institution of the "Amber Alert" system at the Federal level.
SOUL meets every Monday at 8pm in Harper 135. To learn more visit our website and blog here. We also maintain two listhosts, one low volume listhost for announcements, and another high volume one for day to day matters. Let us know which you'd like to be on! Finally, please direct any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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