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College of DuPage faculty members authorize strike

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Full-time faculty members at the College of DuPage have voted to authorize a strike, their union announced Thursday.

The College of DuPage Faculty Association says its members have been working without a contract since a multiyear pact expired May 31.

The vote doesn’t mean a strike is imminent at the state’s largest community college. Dozens of faculty members and their supporters — many of them wearing red shirts that read “teaching matters” — rallied on the school’s Glen Ellyn campus before attending Thursday night’s COD board meeting to push for a new contract.

“A strike is the very last thing that we want to do,” union President David Goldberg said. “But we will do whatever it takes for our students that will help them get their education and the services that they have come to expect from COD.”

Faculty union leaders are required to file a 10-day notice of their intent to strike with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board before they can legally walk off the job.

The strike threat comes after the two sides met twice with a federal mediator. The union had not filed a strike notice as of Thursday.

“I definitely think that we need several more federal mediation sessions before that could happen,” Goldberg said.


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

A school spokeswoman released a statement saying negotiations are ongoing and the college remains “committed to bargaining in good faith” with the COD faculty association.

After faculty members expressed frustrations with contract talks, COD board Chair Christine Fenne said trustees respect the negotiation process and bargaining should happen at the table, not at the podium, not in email letters and “not in the newspapers.”

“Let us remember that we are still at the table together and respectfully working through the issues. No one is walking away,” Fenne said.

Reaching a “fair contract is everyone’s goal,” she added.

Bargaining teams have been at the table since February but without a considerable amount of progress, Goldberg said.

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

 

“We think that the wage losses that people have experienced against 8% inflation are something that should be recognized,” he said. “And we should be recognized for our experience and our expertise, the work that we do inside and outside of the classroom.”

Union leaders also are fighting the board’s plan to remove 18 part-time counseling positions, which would leave just 10 full-time counselors. The board proposed adding full-time advising positions, but those positions will not offer mental health services.

“As we see students facing unprecedented mental health crises in a post-COVID environment, we think that … higher education, where resources are available, has a responsibility and obligation to help students where they’re at and provide those services,” Goldberg said.

He addressed another area of concern at a COD board of trustees meeting last month.

“Faculty input into central decisions at the college involving multimillion-dollar initiatives is thin to nonexistent,” Goldberg said.

He cited renovations to the Student Services Center, a building that was built only about a decade ago. Goldberg said the school needs to place greater emphasis on faculty and employees rather than “bricks and mortar.” About 25 full-time faculty members have retired since the last contract negotiations, in 2019, and were not replaced, Goldberg said.

“I wish that there would be more of an emphasis on that and less of an emphasis on pretty, bright and shiny things, frankly,” he said.

The union represents about 285 full-time faculty members.

Goldberg said over 93% percent of the faculty who voted approved the strike-authorization measure.

Fenne said at Thursday’s board meeting “teaching and counseling does matter, which is why we are proud that our mission statement with the board’s approval will soon be to educate, enrich and empower our communities for success. Education is our passion that unites us at the table, because that is the most important thing we do here at College of DuPage.”

        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        



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