NIU unions file grievances with state labor board, protest stalled contract negotiations

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DeKALB – Two Northern Illinois University educator unions recently filed grievances with the Illinois Labor Relations Board alleging the university violated the law by halting recent labor contract negotiations.

About 40 members of the United Faculty Alliance of NIU, which represents 600 tenured-track professors at the institution, and the University Professionals of Illinois 4100, which has 220 non-tenured track educators, gathered outside Altgeld Hall on NIU campus Wednesday afternoon. The picketing was to call attention to what the unions said were unfair bargaining practices by the university.

Representatives from each union told the Daily Chronicle Wednesday that recent planned meetings between union representatives and NIU’s bargaining team were halted. Union representatives said they believe the negotiations were halted unlawfully, and filed subsequent unfair labor practice complaints with the Illinois Labor Relation Board. NIU officials said the contract talks were halted because non-union members were present.

“We held the rally to encourage NIU to come back to the bargaining table,” said University Professionals of Illinois 4100 president Keith Nyquist. “We want the university to bargain in good faith, and a fair bargaining and contract will benefit the university, students and the community we all live in.”

About 40 members of the United Faculty Alliance of NIU, which represents 600 tenured-track professors at the institution, and the non-tenured instructor’s union, which has 220 members, gathered outside Altgeld Hall on NIU campus Wednesday afternoon, April 13, 2022. The unions were protesting after they recently filed grievances with the Illinois Labor Relations Board alleging the university violated the law by halting recent labor contract negotiations. (Photo provided by Andy Bruno) (Photo provided by Andy Bruno)

On March 25, negotiations teams for the UPI 4100 and NIU met virtually for a scheduled bargaining meeting. Nyquist said the union’s contract expired in June 2021. Since then, Nyquist said the union agreed to extend its expired contract until a new labor agreement could be reached. Bargaining meetings for the UPI 4100 have occurred nearly every week since June 2021.

At the March 25 meeting, NIU’s bargaining team halted negotiations after they learned a non-union member was present. Nyquist said it was the president of the United Faculty Alliance, Kerry Ferris. In response, on March 28, University Professionals of Illinois 4100 filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the state’s Labor Relations Board alleging NIU illegally denied the union the right to bargain.

A new date for the non-tenured instructors’ union to bargain again has not yet been set, Nyquist said.

A similar instance occurred with the United Faculty Alliance, its president Kerry Ferris said Wednesday. Scheduled bargaining set to happen last Thursday, April 7, was halted again by NIU, she said, after it was discovered a non-union member — Keith Nyquist of the UPI 4100 — was in attendance. The United Faculty Alliance filed a subsequent grievance with the state Monday, April 11.

“It was a surprise, because we had been working for months preparing to bargain,” Ferris said. “We were surprised, confused and disappointed. We hope that [NIU’s bargaining team] decides to bargain and they no longer refuse to bargain with us.”

In a statement issued to the Daily Chronicle Wednesday by NIU spokesperson Lisa Miner, the university declared its commitment to continue negotiations in good faith to develop contracts reflective of each unions’ desires. The statement also said, however, that non-union members present at bargaining talks isn’t the norm.

“NIU explained that this was not the standard practice of how the bargaining unit agreed to negotiate with the university, and that it posed a conflict,” NIU said in a statement issued Wednesday.

The statement said contract talks with the non-tenured union were making progress until recently.

“The university strongly desires to resume productive bargaining sessions with each unit and their respective members so as not to unnecessarily delay negotiations and progress to contracts,” NIU officials said. “We deeply value the members of each unit and encourage swift resolution.”

via Shaw Local

April 13, 2022 at 07:00PM

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