The Board of Trustees Intervention Prevents Union Strike

Scott Andrews and Joshua Lasko

University Professionals of Illinois (UPI) and the NEIU administration reached a tentative agreement late in the evening on April 22, 2023, averting a strike by NEIU faculty. A strike was authorized after contract negotiations, ongoing since July 2022, had stalled. The response from the administration was “pretty brutal”, according to Dr. Nancy Matthews, the UPI NEIU Chapter President. The administration had proposed to increase workload without any raises for five years.


Matthews said, “I’m very optimistic about the relationship with the new board”.


UPI Executive Board sent an email to students on the morning of April 22, 2023, asking for students and members of the community to contact the board and state politicians. The pressure and heat helped. According to board chairman, Jose Rico, “Every time we heard from students, faculty, and staff, we all heard the same thing: that we wanted to improve the working conditions of the university, but that we also wanted to make sure we put students first, and make sure we charted a future and vision for Northeastern together.”


After working with a mediator for almost a dozen hours, an agreement was successfully reached. Matthews also thanked the deputy governor, Martin Torres, for his role in making the agreement possible.


Matthews said, “Bargaining was a challenge for both sides given the circumstances of coming out of the pandemic and the enrollment and other challenges NEIU faces…We want to create the best learning conditions for our students.”


Matthews continued, reiterating the commitment and dedication of the Board of Trustees, “Bargaining began in July, and for many months there was very little movement. That changed in recent weeks as the new Board of Trustees stepped in. Just as our members were getting frustrated enough with a strike vote.”


As far as the tentative agreement, some of the union members have pushed back on counting this as an actual win for the union since it is not the final course of action for this issue, but it is a step in the right direction. Matthews stated, “I believe in celebrating small steps… but it is not the end of celebrating”. Still, the Board of Trustees needs to vote to ratify the contract. 

Regular class schedules have resumed for the rest of the semester.  Rico said, “the university community can begin to heal as a new presidential search for NEIU is underway”.