Academic Unions

Recently, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (IELRB) certified the United Faculty Alliance (UFA) of NIU, UPI IFT-AFT, AAUP (UFA) as the union representing NIU tenured and tenure-track faculty. NIU instructors are currently represented by the University Professionals of Illinois (UPI). Representation by a union means that the union (UFA or UPI, respectively) negotiates the salaries, hours, and terms and conditions of employment collectively on behalf of everyone in the bargaining unit, and the university is precluded from negotiating such matters with individual bargaining unit faculty.

The administration has developed a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) to assist in answering questions about what effect the certification of UFA as the union representing tenured and tenure-track faculty will have upon the NIU community and its members.

Collective Bargaining Agreements and Documents

United Faculty Alliance (UFA)

University Professionals of Illinois (UPI)

Related Links

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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.

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.

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.

I did not get to vote in an election on the question of establishing a union. Do employees 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 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.

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 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.

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.
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 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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