Faculty members at the University of Illinois at Chicago walked off the job Tuesday to protest low wages as contract negotiations continue. The strike will last two days.
UIC United Faculty Local 6456 officials said hundreds of faculty members held a rally on campus. The walkout forced the cancellation of most classes at the near-west side campus on Tuesday.
"The campus seems to be pretty divided," graduate student Shaka Rawls said.
Professors said 18 months of contract talks have resulted in little progress on key issues, like lecturer or non-tenure wages. Union President Joe Persky said the school is refusing to pay professors what they're worth despite higher tuition and a big reserve fund.
"One of our lecturers in the classroom, making $30,000 dollars a year, is generating $300,000 dollars for the university in terms of tuition and fees," Persky said.
Non-tenured lecturers are paid on average $47,000 per year, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
"We should be providing the same quality education that the University of Illinois does down in Champaign-Urbana," Persky said. "But we haven't been given the resources to do that."
The Chronicle's survey of faculty salaries shows the difference between the schools.
UIC professors make anywhere from $1,000 to $9,000 less than UIUC professors on average, except when it comes to instructors, who make about $1,000 more.
"I think the biggest questions are really about equity and again about merit and how to distribute merit," Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs UIC Lon Kaufman said. "Keep in mind also that this is the first contract, so it's not simply about economic issues, it's about everything else. The page starts with nothing."
Some students are just excited for a break from school.
"The only thing that I like is my class got canceled tomorrow," UIC student Youssef Banoub said.
While others aren't sure this strike will solve these issues.
"I'm also concerned about the potential lack of impact of a strike that's only two days long, in the middle of a week," Rawls said. "I'm not sure it's going to be a big enough push for the administration to make any changes to the contract."
The economics professor said the university and union bargained all weekend, but the union concluded its core demands won't be met without a strike.
School administrators have said they'll continuing negotiating with a federal mediator.