UIC workers threaten walkout for second time in two months

Historic strike looms

10/13/2010 10:00 PM


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Service Employees International Union Local 73 President Christine Boardman (center) shouts "No contract! No peace!" during a rally last Thursday. Local 73 filed a second strike notice on Oct. 8 after more than 18 months without a contract.

Shouting, “Chop from the top!” University of Illinois-Chicago staff joined student organizers Thursday to air grievances of pay inequities in a time when university leaders and academic professionals are getting more and more money.

Service Employees International Union Local 73 members turned circles in the UIC quad Oct. 7 yelling slogans such as, “No contract. No peace,” while threatening to take 3,000 maintenance, technical and clerical workers out for a history-making strike on a campus that has never seen one.

After a more than a year without contract, Local 73 gave a strike notice in early August, saying that the university was not bargaining in good faith.

Seeking at least an 8.25 percent pay raise and annual step increments, organizers in the last minute called off a three-day strike and rally session scheduled for the first day of classes after saying the university had budged slightly and shown some movement. At the time, union officials agreed to delay a strike for 30 days.

On Friday, a second strike notice was given after talks ground to a halt early this month on issues related to “economics and wages,” said Local 73 spokesperson Adam Rosen.

More negotiations are expected this week, with the first possible day of the strike being Monday, Oct. 18.

Local 73 Vice President Phil Martini said workers want a full restoration of step increases in addition to the base pay raise.

Step increases are annual pay increases for each year of service and are a contract goal sought in addition to an 8.25 percent wage increase.

“The only way we will agree to an agreement is if UIC management restores the step increases for each year of the proposed three-year contract,” Rosen said.

The university talks about hiring and wage freezes while all the while hiring more academic professionals at up to 20 percent more cost, Martini said.

Academic professionals are salaried employees and exempt from union contracts. The continued loss of union jobs to so-called professionals through a self-managed university exemption process was recently aired during a special hearing before some on the Senate Higher Education Committee.

Tom Morelock, executive director of the State Universities Civil Service System, said UIC wrongly exempted jobs from union contracts at the highest rate among all state universities.

“No other university is as bad,” Morelock told the senate committee.

Elaine Johnston, a 14-year union employee, said 400 jobs had been exempted from organizing and converted to salary staff since June.

“The administration is out of control,” Johnston said.

Many of the grievances aired by Local 73 workers last week fell on ears largely deaf to their issues. Students and others in the quad not involved in the rally focused mostly on smart phones and laptops.

UIC spokesperson Bill Burton stood in the wings listening to union leaders stoke workers’ ire during the lunch-break rally with speeches and testimonials detailing union-busting tactics.

“We’re continuing to negotiate and hope to come to a settlement that is fair to employees, citizens and families,” Burton said when asked for a comment.

To date, the University of Illinois System and UIC have not responded publicly to union accusations or the findings of the state Civil Service System supporting workers.

Burton would not comment when asked if the university took serious Local 73’strike notice. Instead he referred to the university’s strike-free 45-year history, and said “I’m going to let the record speak for itself.”

Contact: gskinner@chicagojournal.com

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By Payhaswentdownunionworker
Posted: 01/06/2011 3:26 PM

My pay has went down $60 a month instead of going up. I truly wish I was making 100k plus..heck I would even take 60k. I only make 36k and probably 75% of CS makes that amount. Could you survive on that? While we are idiots facing layoffs, bumping, we have the most to lose. We had not seen a payraise in 3 years and here it is again the same thing 3 years later. Lets cut your salary or talk about having you bumped out of your position. How would you like that?

By Frustrated from West loop
Posted: 10/22/2010 3:51 PM

UIC faculty hasn't seen a pay raise in 3 years, in fact faculty had to take a pay cut due to furlough days. Union worker did not have furloughs. Also a hiring freeze was implemented, also affecting faculty strongly. Now, how fair would that be, if these union workers would get their astronomical 8% pay raise?

By WestLooper from West Loop
Posted: 10/15/2010 2:43 PM

A fair question to ask the union members is what programs should be cut to pay for their raises. Budgets are limited, and the University's mission is education. It is not a jobs program.

By Robert from University Village
Posted: 10/14/2010 4:58 PM

The unionized staff has continued to receive pay increases while the Academic Professional workforce- has endured 3 years of pay freezes and furlough days that diminish their salaries. 8% is way out of line.

By Scrooge from South Loop
Posted: 10/14/2010 3:32 AM

8%? What planet are these idiots living on? Let's get rid of these Union jobs.