SEIU: ‘Incredible’ Support from Other U of I Unions
By Jeff Bossert
A spokesman for striking building and food service workers at the University of Illinois says members are getting a lot of backing from other unions. The three-day strike by SEIU Local 73 started at midnight Monday– and will go on until 12 a.m. Thursday.
Spokesman Adam Rosen said there has been an ‘incredible’ showing from those in other trades, like carpenter’s unions and the U of I’s Graduate Employees Organization, which started a food drive for his union.
GEO spokeswoman Stephanie Seawell said their members continue to teach classes. However, Seawell said members will not be heeding calls from the administration to help do the cleanup work usually done by building service staff.
"They're sending out e-mails to various departments saying 'hey can you pitch in and clean up - we're going to put a big garbage can in the middle of building - how about everybody just take the garbage out of their classroom and throw it away' or what not," she said. "We're telling our members don't do that because - A, that's not your job, and B, it is somebody else's job. And that would be crossing a picket line."
Seawell said it wouldn't help the three-day strike launched by SEIU members if graduate employees stopped teaching, because then there would be far fewer classes where the striking workers' absence would be felt. Seawell said GEO members will also join SEIU strikers on the picket line in their off hours.
Rosen said a handful of its own employees, less than 20, have chosen to cross the picket lines. He said SEIU’s executive committee can recommend fining or even docking pay for those workers.
University spokeswoman Robin Kaler said while the union can fine its members (not through any payroll collection process), she said the union canot fine “fair share” employees (i.e., employees in groups covered by the union but who chose not to join the union).
Meanwhile, a University of Illinois administrator is defending its efforts to negotiate with the striking workers.
In a mass e-mail, Associate Provost for Human Resources Elyne Cole said the latest wage increase offer to SEIU would provide them with a wage of 2.5 percent during the first year of the agreement, with guaranteed raises through 2015.
Cole also said the U of I can emphatically state that it has not imposed any retaliatory discipline, and she said the use of outside vendors isn’t being expanded, consistent with the terms of collective bargaining agreements.
Meanwhile, U of I Facilities and Services Executive Director Jack Dempsey said in a mass e-mail that some areas will see service disruptions as a result of the strike, including campus mail delivery.
He said general custodial services like trash removal won’t be performed in individual offices, but Dempsey added that essential services will be done, including the cleaning of campus restrooms and locking and unlocking of facilities.
University of Illinois spokeswoman Robin Kaler said things went 'very smoothly' on campus in the first day of the strike.
Kaler said campus buildings were kept relatively clean in their absence, just not as clean as they would be otherwise. And Kaler said many were willing to step forward and lend a hand for a few days.
“We called in all the extra help people who wanted to come in," she said. " And of course in food service, there are hundreds of student workers who work every day and continue to work. Then housing moved some people around from other jobs, and then a lot of volunteers showed up from across campus.”
Both Rosen and Kaler said no new negotiations have been scheduled.