UI, union reach tentative contract
CHAMPAIGN — After nine months of bargaining and a three-day strike earlier this month, a campus labor union has reached a tentative agreement with the University of Illinois.
Members of Service Employees International Union Local 73, which represents about 775 food and building service workers, will vote next Thursday and Friday on the tentative contract. The results of that vote will be released the evening of April 5.
Ricky Baldwin, a senior field organizer with SEIU Local 73, declined to reveal details of the agreement because he wanted members to review it first.
“We feel it’s a good deal. From our perspective, the best thing is we had an excellent strike. Our members showed the university we were willing to do it and could pull it off if necessary,” he said.
At 12:01 a.m. Monday, March 11, union members went on a three-day strike. Instead of cooking or serving food, taking out garbage or cleaning floors, they hit the picket lines. The university brought in extra help to clean or serve food to students and no major issues were reported. But many campus unions refused to cross picket lines and garbage did pile up in some spots around campus.
Campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler also declined to release details of the agreement.
“Out of respect for the union, we don’t do that until they have a chance to share it with members,” she said.
Kaler also expressed optimism the union would approve it because the negotiating committee will recommend their members ratify it.
“We think it’s a fair agreement,” she said.
Negotiations have been going on since last June and the contract expired in mid-July. A federal mediator joined the meetings in December. After the strike, the union and university met last week, followed by another bargaining session Wednesday.
“I really believe the membership should be proud of their efforts. There’s no way we would have gotten this contract without their participation (in the strike),” Baldwin said.
Throughout the negotiations, union members have said they were bargaining for better wages, and they expressed concerns about the university contracting out some of their work. They also accused the university of retaliatory discipline during negotiations, which the university denied.
Food and building service workers clean classrooms and residential halls, prepare food in university dining halls, cater special events and deliver campus mail, among other tasks.