Full-time faculty members at the College of DuPage are poised to take a strike authorization vote as contract negotiations continue.
The 304 faculty members, represented by the College of DuPage Faculty Association, will decide Tuesday whether to give their bargaining team the ability to declare a strike.
"It does not mean we are going on strike," Shannon Toler, president of the faculty association, said Monday. "It does not even mean we want to go on strike. What it means is the faculty wants the negotiating team to be empowered to make that decision."
The Glen Ellyn-based school's faculty members have been working without a contract since a multiyear pact expired Aug. 14. Negotiations on a new deal started in March but have gone slowly through a dozen sessions.
The faculty negotiating team and COD officials have had one session with a federal mediator, and four more are scheduled over the next two weeks, including one Tuesday.
"We are going into these mediation sessions fully hoping they are going to be productive," Toler said. "We are fully hoping both sides are walking into these sessions with a mind to compromise and to figure out how to get this contract taken care of."
Both sides were unable to reach consensus on issues including compensation, evaluation and promotion before the previous contract expired.
In an open letter to the community released Monday, COD President Brian Caputo said officials are "encouraged by the tenor" of the discussions with the mediator and believe a fair and equitable contract is attainable.
Caputo said COD officials recognize the importance of offering competitive salaries to attract instructors. But they want to implement additional evaluation guidelines "to be in line with our peers and the majority of institutions nationally."
He said COD officials are seeking a promotional structure that fully considers educational level and experience.
"To do otherwise would be a disservice to our students and our faculty, both current and future," he said.
Caputo said the goal is to agree to a contract that best serves the college community as a whole.
"We are eager to get back to the bargaining table and will work diligently to achieve a fair new contract with CODFA as soon as possible," he wrote.
Toler, meanwhile, said the first mediation session was productive and she's "optimistic we can continue to make progress" during the next session.
"We want mediation to work," she said. "We do not want to go on strike."
But she also said talks have moved slowly and "we want progress to be made."
If the strike authorization vote is approved, the faculty's bargaining team still would be required to file a 10-day notice of intent to strike with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board before taking any job action.