SEIU Workers at U of I to Hold 3-Day Strike
Almost 800 food and building-service workers at the University of Illinois will walk off the job for three days beginning at 12 a.m. Monday.
Picket lines were expected to start early in the morning, as the majority of the nearly 800 members of Service Employees International Union Local 73 voted to walk off the job over the weekend.
Spokesman Adam Rosen said no new talks with the U of I have been scheduled since Thursday’s all-day session with a federal mediator. Union members will strike until midnight Thursday.
Vote totals from the weekend weren’t disclosed, but Rosen said the majority of both units voted walking off the job.
He said the strike will severely cripple the university for 72 hours.
“There will be no food service available," he said. "There will be no building cleaned. Dorms will not be cleaned. Toilets will not be cleaned. There will be no deliveries, no pickups. Not that there will be any garbage to pick up – we’re not at work. But if there is any garbage, it will not be picked up, they will just keep driving by.”
U of I spokeswoman Robin Kaler says administrators remain ready to continue negotiating. She also says there’s a contingency plan in place to the handle some of the jobs of striking workers.
And Kaler said the strike vote doesn’t mean union members have to honor it.
“It’s important to remember that just because the union has called a strike, does not mean that union members have to participate," she said. "And union members that want to come to work certainly will be welcome, and will be paid for their work.”
Rosen said other unions and students have pledged not to cross the picket line.
SEIU says progress was made in some areas, but the latest wage proposal won’t cover cost of living increases. The union also said talks broke down over retaliatory discipline and the contracting out of services.
The previous contract between SEIU and the U of I expired in July.
Talks this week between the University of Illinois and one of its employee unions gained no ground - and now the union is filing an unfair labor complaint.
But the head of the Service Employees International Union local said the two sides have agreed to have a federal mediator sit in on talks next month. Ricky Baldwin said that will head off any labor action for at least a month.
Baldwin claims U of I negotiators haven't been bargaining in good faith by asking for new concessions that moved negotiations further apart. He also accuses the University of replacing some union jobs with lower-paid workers, many of them students.
"It's not an us versus them in terms of the contingent workers," Baldwin said. "We love for these people to be hired full-time, get decent pay and benefits and union rights. But they're not treated very well," Baldwin claimed, saying employees were afraid to complain after one supervisor demonstrated bad behavior.
The SEIU represents nearly 800 food service and building service employees on the Urbana campus. A U of I spokesperson has not been available for comment as of Friday afternoon.
Baldwin said negotiations will resume March 8th, a week before a federal mediator will join the talks.
University of Illinois trustees will vote Thursday (May 20th) to confirm the schools' incoming president and to raise tuition. But first ... a trio of legislators and union members will protest.
Michael Hogan will make $620,000 a year as the U of I's president. The last Illinois president. B. Joseph White, made $450,000.
State Senator Marty Sandoval of Cicero is one of several Democrats who say Hogan should forgo the hike. He says it will start Hogan off on the wrong foot ... given that the school's set to increase tuition by 9.5%.
"Everyone has been very public about holding the line on cost", says Sandoval. "And ... it's just apparent that the board of the University of Illinois, and President Hogan just don't get it. That people are hurting."
Sandoval wants a tuition freeze. The SEIU union says when its members are asked to take furloughs and accept layoffs, the university's top administrator should set an example. University spokesman Tom Hardy defends Hogan's package as comparable with peer institutions. Hardy says the pay is what's needed to get the best person for the job.