University of Chicago Faculty Forward Updates

Updated 06/13/24

About Faculty Forward

Who We Represent

Faculty Forward, an affiliate of Service Employees International Union Local 73 (SEIU Local 73), is the union of non-tenure track faculty at the University of Chicago. We represent over 500 academic workers across the University, including instructional professors, professors of practice in the arts, teaching fellows, lecturers, Humanities Writing Program writing specialists, Little Red Schoolhouse lectors, Social Sciences Writing Program writing advisors, and writing and research advisors in the Department of English Language & Literature and the Creative Writing Program.

A Brief History

Fed up with stagnant pay, deteriorating working conditions, and the expectation of unpaid labor, UChicago contingent faculty came together in 2015 and voted overwhelmingly to form the Faculty Forward Union, an affiliate of SEIU Local 73. Full- and part-time instructors from every division on campus united under the collective principle that “our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.” We stood in solidarity to fight for a pathway to promotion, a livable wage, and a sustainable teaching load for ourselves and for each other. We demanded benefits for part-time instructors as well as parity with our tenure-track colleagues in parental leave and recognition for outstanding teaching. Faculty Forward came together to make ourselves and our labor visible, to demand respect, and to rightfully take our seat at the bargaining table. 

As we go into negotiating our third CBA with the university in 2024, we are excited to build significantly on these gains by continuing to fight for equitable working conditions, protections around academic freedom, and an ongoing role in the shared governance of the university through meaningful collective bargaining. Our working conditions are still our students’ learning conditions—and the university only thrives when we do. 

Union Commitments

Faculty Forward is committed to: 

  • Realizing the educational mission of the University of Chicago by fighting to secure the resources and labor conditions that faculty need in order to best serve our students. 
  • Making sure that the concerns and priorities of each individual member are heard and represented by our Union.
  • Working democratically so that faculty have a strong collective voice in determining the future of the University.
  • Using collective bargaining in order to negotiate better wages, benefits, and labor conditions for our members, as well as to promote shared governance of the University.
  • Striving for equity within our union to build solidarity and ensure that our collective voice is an inclusive one. 
  • Working to promote the principles of academic freedom and free speech that are central to the University’s mission for Union members and in the University at large.

Collective Bargaining Agreement and Relevant Documents

Bargaining Platform: We Are Faculty

Read our We Are Faculty statement.

FAIR PAY FOR FAIR WORK: Over the last few years, steep inflation rates driven by corporate profiteering have taken their toll on our members, as they have on workers in other sectors. Members across the Union have lost 9% in purchasing power since we negotiated our last contract in 2021, demonstrating the inadequacy of modest annual raises. While our members struggle to make ends meet, the University’s top 25 executives make more than all of Faculty Forward (more than 500 workers) combined. We are demanding a 20-percent across-the-Union pay increase for the 2024-2027 contract to make sure our members – who do the actual teaching work at the center of this university’s educational mission – are fairly compensated for their labor.

VISAS: Every academic term, members who are international workers face additional precarity because of Management’s refusal to sponsor the appropriate visa for the work they do. Tenure-line faculty are offered H-1B visas, which are intended for long-term non-citizen workers and also provide a pathway to permanent-resident status. To save a few thousands dollars, Management insists our international members apply for J-1 visas, which are for temporary exchange programs and do not offer a pathway to permanent residence. We are demanding that Management sponsor H-1B visas for all international Faculty Forward members as the default.

FIGHTING FOR OUR NEWEST MEMBERS: In 2023, Faculty Forward successfully organized approximately 50 writing instructors and writing and research advisors in the Humanities Writing Program, the Social Sciences Writing Program, the Department of English and the Creative Writing Program. The current CBA does not include provisions for these workers’  positions. We are committed to negotiating fair terms for these new members including job stability, better pay, benefits, and workload protections, and clear paths to promotion. We also demand that Social Sciences writing advisors be converted to benefits-eligible classification immediately.

CHILD-CARE AND EDUCATION: Members with dependent children have felt the effects of inflation and inadequate compensation particularly acutely. Unlike many of our peer institutions, the University of Chicago does not offer its parent workers additional pay to offset the rising cost of child-care and education. We are demanding a new child-care program modeled on those of our peer institutions that would tie funding to base compensation levels. We are also fighting to support members who are parents of diverse learners by demanding the same  portable diverse-learners benefit that tenure-line faculty have access to for their children. And we are demanding the same college tuition benefits that tenure-line faculty are offered.

ANTI-HARASSMENT: The Union seeks to significantly increase the contractual protections for our members to be free from discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity, and caste. We also demand real protections for members facing targeted harassment, threats of violence, and intimidation (online or off) related to their work as faculty.

ACCESSIBILITY: Faculty Forward is committed to winning stronger protections for our members who are disabled or may become disabled so that they can access the resources they need to perform their jobs under fair and adequate working conditions. In too many cases, our members have been left to provide their own resources, been offered accommodations that simply are not practicable, or have not been offered appropriate accommodations at all. The union is demanding fair and transparent processes to ensure our members have access to all accommodations they require to do their jobs.

LEAVE FOR PPAs: Professors of Practice in the Arts (PPAs) are contractually mandated to maintain a rate of regular and ambitious artistic production within their creative fields. As such, they require the kinds of leave time available to tenure-line faculty in order to produce, publish, and undertake additional professional activities in support of this work. Currently, Management denies them this. We demand that the University provide PPAs with the leave time necessary to fulfill their contractual duties.

WORKLOAD: The Union is keenly aware of the significant workload borne by its members and how, in many instances, that load substantially exceeds the limits of a full-time position. We demand that fair workload protections be put in place, including, but not limited to, a maximum student cap on certain courses, fair courseload expectations that adequately reflect the labor our members perform, and a clear, timely course reduction application process to be available to members in certain circumstances.

FAIR WORK STRUCTURE IN M.A. PROGRAMS: Every year, M.A. programs teach hundreds of students who rely on the advising, teaching, and support of instructional faculty. Growing cohort sizes are placing great pressure on union members who work in these programs to meet the needs of their students. For example, currently, instructional professors and teaching fellows in the M.A. Program in the Social Sciences are considered 9-over-12 workers but are required to do the bulk of their thesis advising during the summer months, which effectively means they are teaching 12-over-12. The Union demands reasonable advising and teaching loads in these programs, including recognition that thesis advising constitutes a course equivalent.

Get Involved!

Join Faculty Forward (SEIU Local 73)

Faculty Forward is a union run by and for the non-Tenure Track faculty members of the University of Chicago.The more our members get involved, the stronger and more effective our union will be. If you’re interested in learning more about how to get involved with Faculty Forward, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the steward for your department or program or to any member of the executive committee.

Complete Our Digital Membership Application Here!

All new lecturers have 30 days after the beginning of their employment to become a full member of Faculty Forward. Alternately, they pay a monthly agency fee to the union, as outlined in Article 2, Section 3 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). 

Dues for members are currently capped at $75, and the agency fee that every lecturer pays ranges from 85-90% of that number. Becoming a member allows you to participate fully in union business. Only members can:

  • Vote to ratify our contract
  • Vote to elect union leadership
  • Serve on committees and as elected officers
  • Attend member meetings and receive member-only information on bargaining
  • Participate in bargaining and shared governance surveys that influence union policy and actions

Faculty Forward is only as strong as the solidarity of our members—We encourage you to become a full dues-paying member of the union today! By standing together, we show our strength as a union and empower ourselves to win major gains towards fair compensation and better working conditions for our membership. 

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the steward for your department or program. For general inquiries and suggestions, write to

Bargaining updates

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Management finally countered on our proposals for Article 17 (Academic Freedom) at Tuesday’s bargaining sessions, which we had introduced originally in March and reintroduced with stronger language again in May in direct response to member concerns about the use of police against protected protest and speech. Jason Merchant, vice provost for academic affairs, joined the management team for this discussion. The University administration pushed back on many of our additions to this article – including a section that would specifically bar the University from deploying police against members engaged in Constitutionally protected activity and protected, concerted activity as defined under federal and state labor law. Faculty Forward in turn countered vigorously and emphasized that defending academic freedom and our members’ speech and protest rights are top priorities for the Union. We will continue to fight hard for a stronger article in the next CBA.

We also continued moving the discussion on immigration and visas forward with our latest counter on Article 25. Though we have already won substantial concessions from management this round – including making H visas effectively the default pathway for IPs – we continue to work to get a fairer deal for our international teaching fellows. The language we proposed at the latest session would broaden the circumstances under which teaching fellows may select H visas, mandate a more comprehensive and transparent process for presenting visa options to teaching fellows, and mandate a 2-day turnaround from the Office of International Affairs for travel signatures and email inquiries from members.

And we feel that we are very close to agreement on a better article covering harassment and discrimination. We have already won a much more comprehensive enumeration of protected categories of workers and gotten the university to agree to concrete steps to protect against online harassment. We continue to push to make progress on caste discrimination and to make sure the definitions of online harassment under the CBA are solid.

Read the full notes from yesterday’s bargaining session here.

The next bargaining session will be Thursday, July 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Stuart Hall, Room 101.

You can find a full archive of all past bargaining updates here.

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