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University of Illinois-Chicago faculty strike over pay

*News Update*

The University of Illinois-Chicago and the University of Illinois-Chicago United Faculty (UICUF) reached a tentative deal on January 23 to raise the minimum salary to $60,000, stronger job protections for non-tenure track faculty, and a non-contractual commitment for mental health services for students. Classes resumed the same day in anticipation of a ratification vote. Union members will vote on ratification, and if approved, the contract will expire in August 2026.

With faculty members and university administrators at an impasse over contract negotiations, unionized faculty members at University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) informed the university that they will follow through with their pledge to strike on January 17. UIC is a public university and claims on its website that it is the sole public research university in the Windy City.

The UIC United Faculty (UICUF), which claims to represent 900 faculty members, said that UIC administrators have stalled contract negotiations and their inaction led to the union declaring a strike. UICUF Chief Steward Robert Johnston, in a statement, said, “The past 8 months are further evidence that management engages in bad faith bargaining.”

But there was one last-ditch, unsuccessful attempt by both parties to meet on January 16, the evening before the planned strike, to try to hammer out a deal. UICUF said both sides were “far apart” on a deal and UIC called the strike “disappointing and not in the best interest of the university or our students.”

The UIC United Faculty Local 6456, which operates as a part of American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and AFL-CIO, picketed on January 10 at the university campus and posted information on social media with the hashtag #faircontract to highlight their demands, such as pushing for the university to provide mental health services for students and give pay increases for faculty to keep pace with inflation.

AFT posted social media updates in support of UICUF’s strike. AFT wrote, “UICUF faculty deserve a #FairContractNow. We stand with them in solidarity.” Other affiliated union groups, such as the National Lawyers Guild’s Chicago branch and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF), also posted similar messages of support on social media. UICUF’s Twitter account pushed messages for its members to show solidarity by showing up at the picket line, which rhetoric was matched by AFT’s live-tweeting of the strike.

Meanwhile, the university’s statement noted that both sides have met 29 times for negotiation sessions and 11 sessions were under “the guidance of an independent federal mediator.” Despite these meetings, the university said that both parties were “significantly apart” on six contract items, such as salary increases and minimum salaries. The university stated that it “wants to resolve these negotiations without any disruption to teaching and learning – especially as we begin the spring semester.”

Based on the academic calendar, classes started on January 9. It remains to be seen how a strike may disrupt the remainder of the semester and academic calendar.

Spencer Irvine

Spencer Irvine is Senior Writer & Researcher at Americans for Fair Treatment, a community of current and former public-sector employees offering resources and support to exercise their First Amendment rights. Spencer previously worked in state government, in communications for a non-profit advocacy organization, and held various administrative and communications roles at a media analysis organization. He has a master’s degree in public administration from George Washington University and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brigham Young University. He lives in Arizona with his wife, is an avid history buff and enjoys touring historic sites.