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Part-time union strike continues into weekend as community leaders rally with instructors

Students, part-faculty and many other supporters jointed the picket line on Friday, Nov. 3, 2023 outside of 600 S. Michigan Ave. Many rallied together in support of Columbia Part-time Union fighting for a fair contract. (Peyton Reich)

Surrounded by a cast of union heavy hitters, Columbia’s part-time faculty union marched and picketed on the fifth day of its strike Friday, Nov. 3.

Representatives from the Illinois Federation of Teachers, The American Federation of Teachers and the Chicago Teachers Union joined the Columbia Faculty Union for a press conference outside of 600 S. Michigan Ave. Union members interviewed each other on video and posed for pictures.

The Columbia Faculty Union, which represents 584 part-time instructors, is a local branch of the IFT and AFT, state and national labor organizations.

“When we stand together, we fight for the quality of higher education,” said John Miller, vice president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. “We fight for our students.” 

Meanwhile, in an update published on the college’s website, President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim said if the strike continues past this week, academic departments will reach out to students and offer alternate forms of instruction, tutoring and other activities.

Columbia is a private college with a fall enrollment of about 6,500. 

“Every academic semester is designed to accommodate the loss of some instruction – as can occur in the case of an extended weather emergency or faculty or student illness – without compromising the achievement of course learning outcomes,” Kim said in the update

The Columbia Faculty Union, or CFAC, went on strike Oct. 30 over cost-cutting measures the college is implementing to curb a $20 million deficit. Some of those measures include bigger class sizes and a reduction in sections of courses, which will give part-time faculty fewer opportunities to teach.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told Columbia’s part-time instructors that the administration is “trying to take courses away from you” and by doing so is “actually trying to kill this university.”

In 2017, the union went on strike for two days. Currently, some part-time faculty have continued to teach, telling their students that it is due to economic hardship. 

Stacy Davis Gates, president of the Chicago Teachers Union and executive vice president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, spoke at the rally as more than a hundred CPS students attended a high school fair hosted by the Communication Department at 1104 S. Wabash. Senior Vice President and Provost Marcella David greeted the students at the event.

Davis Gates said she understands the financial burden. CPS teachers last went on strike in 2019 for 14 days. 

“I understand that that check didn’t come and your daughter’s tuition is due,” she said. “I understand that that check didn’t come, but the mortgage is still due. So what we have to do in solidarity is not just lift people up but fill our needs up.”

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About the Contributors
Peyton Reich, Photojournalist
preich@columbiachronicle.com   Peyton Reich is a junior photojournalism major, minoring in marketing. Reich has covered the Mexican Independence parade, Columbia's Black Student Union and theatre performances. Reich joined the Chronicle in August 2023.   Hometown: Flossmoor, Illinois
Christalyn Barker, Photojournalist
cbarker@columbiachronicle.com   Christalyn Barker is a senior photojournalism major, minoring in music business. Barker has covered campus events such as Convocation, Acoustic Kitchen performances, and metro events. She joined the Chronicle in August 2023.   Hometown: Dearborn, Michigan
Kaelah Serrano, Director of Photography
kserrano@columbiachronicle.com   Kaelah Serrano is a junior photojournalism major. She has covered music festivals, campus art exhibitions and metro parades and protests. Serrano joined the Chronicle in January 2023.   Hometown: Chicago, Illinois