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CHICAGO (AP) — Non-tenured faculty and graduate students in Illinois are looking to unions as pay and benefits stagnate.

University of Chicago, Loyola University Chicago, the University of Illinois, Northwestern University and Columbia College Chicago have seen an increase in union activity, the Chicago Tribune reported .

Graduate students, adjunct and non-tenured faculty members have sparked most of the activism, leading to strikes and contract negotiations.

Part-time faculty members at Columbia College Chicago held a two-day strike in November over wages, job security and seniority in class assignments. Graduate and teaching assistants at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign staged a nine-day strike in February, leading to a new contract last month.

The University of Chicago’s union has had a smoother process to get its first contract, which was finalized this month and includes increased raises for full-time lecturers and per-course rates for adjuncts.

“In order to serve our students, we need to be able to make a living wage,” said Jason Grunebaum, a University of Chicago senior lecturer and part of an organizing committee for the non-tenured and adjunct faculty union. “Good higher education jobs are really created only when faculty unionizes.”

About 80 percent of instructional jobs, including graduate students, aren’t tenured, said Timothy Reese Cain is an associate professor of higher education at the University of Georgia. Non-tenured faculty have little say in governance, few job protections and low salaries, he said.

“Those are prime conditions for organizing,” Cain said.

Finances are tight because of declining government aid and growing pressure to keep college affordable, university officials said.

Some universities have fought against negotiating with graduate students. They have said that graduate student’s primary focus is to conduct research and obtain a degree and they shouldn’t be characterized as workers.


Information from: Chicago Tribune,