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FAQs About Academic Unions

The administration has received many questions about what the certification means of the United Faculty Alliance of NIU, UPI, IFT-AFT, AAUP, as the union representing tenured and tenure-track faculty

If you have additional questions, please submit them below. Responses will be added as information becomes available.

United Faculty Alliance

What does it mean to be represented by a union?

It means that the union (UFA) negotiates the wages, hours and terms and conditions of your employment collectively. You may no longer negotiate those matters with university administrators (e.g., your department head, dean, etc.) on your own behalf.



Will I have union dues/fair share fees deducted from my paycheck, and what amount will be deducted?

The amount of union dues is set exclusively by the union. The withholding from payroll of union dues and/or fair share fees is a matter that will be addressed in collective bargaining negotiations.


Can I remove myself from the bargaining unit?

No, you cannot as long as you are in a covered position. While not all employees may wish to be represented by a union, the university generally is unable to remove an employee in a covered position from the certified bargaining unit.


How did this happen?

At least 50 percent plus one of the tenured and tenure-track faculty members at NIU signed cards, papers or petitions that authorized UFA to be their exclusive representative for the purpose of negotiating salaries and terms and conditions of employment.


I think I signed one of those cards/papers/petitions, but I didn’t realize it meant I was actually voting to form a union. Will revoking my signature change the outcome?

No. Illinois labor law assumes you read and understood a union authorization card, paper or petition that you signed, and revoking your signature after the union has been certified will not impact the Labor Board’s June 9, 2016 ruling.


If I did not sign anything and/or am opposed to being represented by a union, am I still required to be represented by the union?

Yes. Because a majority of tenured and tenure-track faculty signed cards, papers or petitions in support of the union, all tenured and tenure-track faculty in covered positions are represented by United Faculty Alliance. All faculty members in the bargaining unit are subject to the wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment negotiated by the union on their behalf.


What is the amount of union dues as the percentage of one's salary?

Questions regarding membership dues should be directed to the union.


Will the policies and procedures of the university and/or my college remain the same?

As part of its duty to maintain the status quo concerning matters that are a mandatory subject of bargaining, the university and its colleges and departments will continue to follow existing policies and procedures with respect to matters that directly concern wages, hours, and terms and conditions of employment during the period of negotiations. For example, under existing policy, units have the ability to continue providing competitive counter-offers and promotions.


Will the existing university faculty/staff grievance procedure continue to be available as a means of resolving disputes that are covered by its terms?

The faculty/staff grievance procedure remains in-place notwithstanding any ongoing collective bargaining negotiations.


I did not get to vote in an election on the question of establishing a union. Do faculty have the right to vote in an election?

No. Illinois law allows a union to be selected as collective bargaining representative without an election through a “card check” procedure, which involves collecting signatures from a majority of employees in the proposed bargaining unit and submitting the signed cards, paper, or petitions to the Illinois Educational Labor Board (IELRB) to establish that a majority of the employees want the union to represent them. A majority is defined as 50 percent plus 1 of the employees in the proposed bargaining unit.


How can I participate in the negotiation process if I am not part of the bargaining team?

Collective bargaining negotiations are conducted exclusively through representatives appointed by the union to its team and by the university to its team.


Who is in the union, and what faculty positions are included in the bargaining unit?

In general, individuals who hold tenured and tenure-track positions at the university (except in the College of Law) totaling a 51 percent or greater FTE are in the unit. Positions with the following titles are included in the bargaining unit: Assistant Professor, Associate Professor and Professor.


How is a full time instructor defined?

To be full-time, an Instructor must have received an appointment of 1.00 FTE. Under UPI Agreement Section 4.1 (b) (“Assignment of Duties”), the workload of a full-time Instructor is twelve (12) credit hours per semester, plus or minus one.


When did the tenure and tenure-track faculty form a bargaining unit (i.e., unionize)?

On June 9, 2016, the IELRB certified the United Faculty Alliance, IFT-AFT, AAUP, as the union representing tenured and tenure-track faculty at NIU.


Which positions are excluded from the tenured and tenure-track bargaining unit?

Excluded from the unit are faculty whose appointments are adjunct, part-time (less than 51 percent FTE) and all non-tenure-track faculty, all faculty of the College of Law, and anyone who is deemed to be a supervisory, managerial, confidential, or short-term employee as those terms are defined under the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act.


I may be moving from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor or from Associate Professor to Professor during the time the collective bargaining agreement is being negotiated. Can this promotional process continue, and can I receive a salary increase associated with my change in rank?

Yes. The certification does not preclude the university from continuing the practice of promoting faculty through the ranks, including providing a promotional salary increase associated with the new rank. The University is required to maintain the status quo regarding wages, hours and terms and conditions of employment during the period the collective bargaining is being negotiated and promotional salary increases are included in the status quo.


Are tenured and tenure-track faculty in all colleges included in the UFA bargaining unit?

Only the College of Law faculty are excluded from the UFA bargaining unit; all other colleges are covered.


How can I verify whether I am in the UFA tenured and tenure-track faculty bargaining unit?

Check with your college-level human resources administrator. For further information, you may contact Human Resource Services, specifically Marlene Bryant at mbryant@niu.edu.


Instructors must hold appointments of at least 50 percent FTE to be included in the bargaining unit. How is that percentage defined?

The Instructor’s appointment percentage as referenced in his/her executed offer and appointment letter is the official determinant of bargaining unit status.


Are there any UPI Agreement consequences if an Instructor receives an appointment for less than 50 percent FTE?

The UPI Agreement is applicable only to members of the UPI bargaining unit. To be included in the bargaining unit, an Instructor’s appointment must be and remain 50 percent FTE or greater. However, under UPI Agreement Section 3.8 (a) (“Break in Service”), an Instructor who previously was included in the bargaining unit, but then receives an appointment of less than 50 percent FTE, will maintain his/her years of service and seniority on the UPI roster for up to 4 consecutive academic semesters even though he/she is no longer included in the bargaining unit.


If I am now represented by the United Faculty Alliance, will I be able to receive a salary increase if there is a campus salary increment program this year?

Not until the issue is negotiated with the union. Because tenured and tenure-track faculty have chosen to unionize, salary increases must be negotiated with the union along with other terms and conditions of employment. Applying any university salary increment program to employees in a bargaining unit would constitute a unilateral change that the university is prohibited from doing once a union has been certified as collective bargaining representative.


When will current negotiations for the UPI collective bargaining agreement be completed?

NIU and UPI negotiators are meeting regularly and making progress. It isn’t possible to predict when negotiations will conclude.


How long will it take to negotiate the new UFA tenured faculty union collective bargaining agreement?

Estimating the period of time it will take to negotiate the first UFA tenured faculty union agreement would be pure conjecture.


Will there be department chair participation on the management bargaining team for the tenured faculty unit negotiations?

The management team is in formation, and it is expected that chairs will be included as recommended by the college deans.


What topics should be discussed in the annual meeting with the instructors?

Section 7.1 of the UPI Agreement requires that the annual meeting be conducted by January 31 for the purposes of:

  • Discussion of required and optional evaluation materials to be used for evaluation;
  • Procedures to be employed for obtaining optional evaluation materials;
  • Relative weights to be given to evaluation materials and expectations of performance;
  • Jointly developing any “other” performance criteria that will be utilized for the evaluation that would be in addition to the required criteria shown in Sections 7.2 (a) through (f) of the UPI Agreement; and
  • Use of any of the “optional” evaluation materials discussed in Section 7.6 of the UPI Agreement; and Discussion of whether or not the Instructors and Department Chair “jointly agree” to the use of unsigned student comments as a component of the “optional” evaluation materials, as provided in Section 7.7 (“Qualitative Student Comments”) of the UPI Agreement.

Is there a requirement that a UPI representative be present during the annual meeting?

No. The right to the presence of a union representative is related to individual disciplinary investigations and/or grievance meetings. The annual meeting is a departmental business meeting.


Whom should I contact for more information or if I have questions?

Further questions should be addressed to the director of Academic Employee and Labor Relations, NIU Human Resource Services. Members of the bargaining unit may also contact their union representatives.


What process is recommended for department chairs and other members of NIU management to contact UPI?

It is best to first inform their dean’s office about the need to contact UPI, and then, as appropriate, contact Marlene Bryant at mbryant@niu.edu in Academic Employee and Labor Relations, either directly or through the dean’s office, to discuss any UPI representation or contract related questions. Marlene Bryant can then manage any necessary communication with UPI, while keeping the chairs, deans’ offices and Provost’s Office informed.

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