Non-Tenure Track Faculty at University of Illinois Strike to Stabilize Positions, Picket on Campus to End Precarious Employment

By James Anderson

In between late-night alcohol binges at Kam’s, visits to Papa Del’s for indelible slices of blended Sicilian and Chicago-style pizza, flâneur-like walks down the bustling semi-urban atmosphere of Green Street, and journeys east of campus to the Independent Media Center fashioned years ago out of an old post office for the purpose of empowering community members to communicate their own counter-power, undergraduates at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign might have encountered something a little out of the ordinary in April.

Students likely saw a strike.

Hundreds of non-tenure track faculty at UIUC walked out of their classrooms, vacated their labs and otherwise withheld their labor power on Tuesday, April 19, and Wednesday, April 20.

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Members of the Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition Local #6546 at U of I organized the two-day strike to put pressure on the university administration, which has thus far refused to negotiate key bargaining items the union considers essential. The NTFC Local #6546 – affiliate of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors – has been bargaining a contract, or trying to anyway, since October 2014, three months after the union was officially certified.

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Making a Militant Labor Movement to Beat Back Bureaucratic Business Unionism

By James Anderson

During a recent interview with a recruiter from UNITE HERE, the union representing just under 300,000 blue collar workers, I was both shushed and set straight about the current state of the labor movement.

A UNITE HERE recruiter and Harvard alumnus – institutional affiliation I thought instructive, not to mention illustrative of class hierarchies within the very vehicles ostensibly tasked with advancing the struggle against those hierarchies – informed me during the interview, without a hint of compunction, that the union is pretty “top-down” and rather “bureaucratic.” Her words.

The union is a democracy like the United States is a democracy, she said after cutting me off and interrupting me several times in true Ivy League fashion. The statement, declared without a hint of irony, should not have surprised given how Harvard feeds the plutocracy.

Now, “the United States is a democracy” only in the sense that – as a 2014 study from another Ivy League institution, Princeton, co-authored by a scholar at Northwestern – it is really not. Far from affording people a meaningful say in the decisions affecting them, which is what democracy is all about, the system resembles an oligarchy, mainstream political science research has asserted. The wealthy wield inordinate influence over formal political institutions. Class shapes the electoral arena and policy.

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