CHICAGO - About 1,500 faculty members of the University of Illinois-Chicago have walked out of their classrooms and onto the picket line.
It is the first faculty strike at the college in nearly a decade. Some — but not all — classes were canceled.
The strike came after a marathon bargaining session on Monday ended without a new contract.
"The faculty are on strike," said Irene Mulvey of the National Association of University Professors. "They have been pushed to the breaking point by this administration. The contract expired in August, five months ago."
That means students like Lorenzo Cruz were showing up to classrooms only to find that class had been canceled.
"It affects me because I’m paying for classes I can’t go to right now," Cruz said. "But at the end of the day, I hope (teachers) get what they’re looking for."
The University has offered a 17% pay hike over the next four years. But the teachers say that’s not enough. They say they’re woefully underpaid compared to their counterparts at the University of Illinois in Urbana.
"We all know that we’ve been losing money to historic inflation over the past couple years, and so far the money on the table is not making us whole," said Union President Aaron Krall.
The teachers are also demanding more mental health services for their students who they say are still being impacted by the stress of learning during Covid.
"It’s clear that they need more than just the kind ear of a faculty member," said UIC English teacher Jeff Kessler. "They need professional and medical help, and support that faculty can’t just do alone. And we need the University to support that."
In a statement, UIC said: "This work stoppage is disappointing, and not in the best interest of the university or our students…. During the strike, the university is committed to continuing normal operations to the fullest extent possible."
There were no further negotiations on Tuesday, but the two sides are scheduled to get back to the bargaining table on Wednesday.
Union members said they plan to picket daily from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. until a tentative agreement is reached. Rallies will also be held every day on the East Campus Quad at noon and include speeches from state and national union leaders and local politicians, the union said.
The campus has about 34,000 students, including nearly 22,000 undergraduates.
The union last went on strike in 2014. It authorized a walkout in 2019 but reached a deal the day before a planned work stoppage.
Since 2014, faculty at all three University of Illinois campuses — Chicago, Urbana-Champaign and Springfield — have gone on strike. Graduate student workers at UIC went on strike last spring for eight days over to raise their pay a reduce student fees. It was their second walkout in three years.
Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.