Students Are Powerful Allies in the Union's Fight for Resources and Equity
CHICAGO – The nearly 600 members of the Columbia Faculty Union (CFAC, IFT/AFT/AFL-CIO Local 6602) announced today that they have overwhelmingly voted to strike. More than 81% of members voted, with 88% voting YES to strike. The faculty are expected to determine the start date of their strike later today.
The vote makes it crystal clear that Columbia College's adjunct faculty have had enough with the gross fiscal mismanagement and selfish priorities of college President Kim's administration, which continues to put profits above the needs of students, faculty, and the institution.
“Our faculty are committed to Columbia's incredible students and the future of the institution we love," said Diana Vallera, a photography professor and president of CFAC. "With this powerful strike vote, we are telling the administration that we will not stand by silently while they disregard students and faculty to fatten their own wallets. We will fight for the educational experience students need and the fair and equitable contract faculty deserve to ensure our university is strong."
The electronic vote was conducted from October 20-25.
The vote is a direct result of the faculty's extreme frustration with the administration's mandate to eliminate hundreds of already-enrolled classes and dramatically increase class sizes in others in an attempt to cut costs. Despite being in bargaining with the union, Columbia leaders made no effort to inform the faculty of the plan or to bargain a better solution. These ill-conceived cuts will be detrimental to the student experience. In response, CFAC filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against the administration with the National Labor Relations Board in August.
"The administration's tactics not only devalue our students' education at Columbia, but they lower academic standards and increase adjunct faculty workload," added Vallera. "We're particularly troubled by that fact that these harmful cuts are coming at the same time that several of our administrators have secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses for themselves. On one hand they are making devastating cuts and making claims about a financial crisis, while on the other they are raking in huge salaries and bonuses and refusing to be transparent about college spending. What are they trying to hide from students, parents, and faculty?"
Based solely on publicly-available documents, a union financial research team has determined that spending on educational activities at Columbia has decreased by roughly $8 million from 2019-22. At the same time, administrative spending increased by nearly the same amount, about $6 million.
Students are bearing the brunt of the college's mismanagement, and are powerfully partnering with the unionized faculty to hold administrators accountable. Last Friday, hundreds of energized students overflowed two auditoriums on campus to attend the union's "REAL town hall", where they learned details of the administration's harmful cuts and mismanagement. On Saturday, students turned out in massive numbers again with picket signs in hand, joining faculty during a parent/student event to protest and hand deliver their collective demands to President Kim.
“Given the news around the country and the world, it is more important than ever that a college campus is safe and welcoming – and students understand better than anyone that faculty can help do that for them,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “But the administration does not. The administration has acted provocatively and divisively by instead slashing enrolled courses, doubling class sizes, and increasing faculty workloads to address some undefined financial crisis, then blaming the faculty — that’s what precipitated this overwhelming strike vote. Columbia College’s adjuncts are demanding the administration does the right thing and that starts with partnering with, rather than insulting, the professionals who make Columbia run."
“By refusing to be transparent and collaborative with part-time faculty, the college has given them no choice but to take serious action on behalf of their students and the institution,” said IFT President Dan Montgomery. “Faculty know that there is too much at stake for everyone involved to just watch as this administration makes devastating unilateral changes. This administration's tactics do not prioritize the best interests of students or the college. The IFT and our more than 100,000 members across the state stand with CFAC Local 6602 in their fight."
A scheduled bargaining session with CFAC and the college will take place today. Another session is scheduled for November 2.
"Our members hope that the administration will work with us and agree to reverse the harmful cuts and poor decisions that have led to this difficult point," added Vallera. "We do not want to leave our classrooms, but we're ready to do whatever it takes to stand up for our students, ourselves, and our college."
The Columbia College Faculty Union (CFAC, Local 6602) represents 600 part-time faculty at Columbia College - Chicago and is affiliated with the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
The Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) represents 103,000 teachers and paraprofessionals in PreK-12 school districts throughout Illinois, faculty and staff at Illinois’ community colleges and universities, public employees under every statewide elected constitutional officer, and retirees.