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The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois v. the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board and Uic United Faculty

March 22, 2012

THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS,
PETITIONER-APPELLANT,
v.
THE ILLINOIS EDUCATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS BOARD AND UIC UNITED FACULTY, AFT-IFT, RESPONDENTS-APPELLEES.



Direct Administrative Review of the Illinois Educationl Labor Relations Board No. 11-RC-11-C

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Appleton

JUSTICE APPLETON delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Pope and Knecht concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board (Board) certified UIC United Faculty, AFT-IFT (the union), as the exclusive representative of a bargaining unit consisting of tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenured faculty at the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois. The trustees of the university appeal because in their view, the second paragraph of section 7(a) of the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (115 ILCS 5/7(a) (West 2010)) forbids the inclusion of non-tenured faculty in a unit containing tenured and tenure-track faculty. The legislative history of this ambiguous paragraph of section 7(a) convinces us that the university is correct. Therefore, we reverse the Board's decision.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 A. The Distinction Between Tenure-System Faculty and Non-tenured Faculty

¶ 4 The university employs some 1,200 faculty members at the Chicago campus, not counting the faculty in the colleges of medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy. Of these 1,200 faculty members, 800 are in the tenure system, and 400 are non-tenured.

¶ 5 The "tenure system" encompasses tenured faculty, i.e., professors and associate professors, and tenure-track faculty, i.e., assistant professors. Tenured faculty have achieved tenure (basically, lifetime employment), and tenure-track faculty are in a six-year probationary period, in which they are working toward tenure.

¶ 6 Non-tenured faculty support the tenured faculty, either through teaching or research, and they are employed pursuant to annual employment contracts that do not automatically renew. Consequently, they have little or no job security, in contrast to the tenured faculty.

¶ 7 B. The Certification of a Bargaining Unit Containing Both Tenure-System Faculty and Non-tenured Faculty

¶ 8 On April 29, 2011, the union filed with the Board a majority-interest petition, in which it sought to represent a proposed bargaining unit, at the Chicago campus, consisting of both tenure-system faculty and non-tenured faculty. The union's description of the proposed bargaining unit tracked the language of section 1135.20(b)(1) of the Board's regulations (80 Ill. Adm. Code 1135.20(b)(1) (2012)), which provided:

"(b) With respect to educational employees employed at the Chicago campus or employed in units located outside Chicago which report administratively to the Chicago campus, the following units shall be presumptively appropriate for collective bargaining:

(1) Unit 1: All full-time (i.e., employees who have .51 or greater appointment as a faculty member) tenured or tenure-track faculty; all full-time, nontenure-track faculty who possess a terminal degree appropriate to the academic unit in which the faculty member is employed; and all full-time, nontenure-track faculty without the appropriate terminal degree who have been employed for four consecutive semesters, excluding summer terms, but excluding all faculty members of the College of Pharmacy, the College of Medicine and the College of Dentistry."

¶ 9 On July 12, 2011, after a two-day hearing, an administrative law judge issued a recommended decision certifying the proposed bargaining unit. The university filed exceptions to the recommended decision, and in a final decision on September 15, 2011, a three-member majority of the Board rejected the exceptions, with one board member dissenting. Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, No. 2011-RC-0011-C (Ill. Educational Labor Relations Bd., Sept. 15, 2011) (unpublished 18-page slip opinion and order). The majority certified the union as the exclusive representative of the following bargaining unit at the Chicago campus:

"INCLUDED: All full-time (i.e., employees who have .51 or greater appointment as a faculty member) tenure or tenure-track faculty; all full-time, nontenure-track faculty who possess a terminal degree appropriate to the academic unit in which the faculty member is employed; and all full-time nontenure-track faculty without the appropriate ...


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