Union, UI to meet next week

CHAMPAIGN — Following a three-day strike, members of a campus labor union are expected to meet with University of Illinois officials early next week to resume negotiations.

Building and food service workers at the university returned to work early Thursday morning after picketing in front of buildings around campus since Monday and holding a large rally outside the Illini Union on Wednesday.

Over the three days, the university brought in extra help and urged academic professionals to pitch in by cooking and serving hot meals to students, taking out garbage and performing other duties. Many campus unions, such as the Teamsters, refused to cross picket lines and garbage did pile up in some Dumpsters across campus.

"I think a very clear message was sent: This is what a three-day strike was like and you can only imagine what it would be like if it was longer," said Aaron Ammons, a UI building service worker and vice president of the Service Employees International Union Local 73.

Workers went on strike at 12:01 a.m. Monday after the union, which represents about 775 building and food service workers and mail carriers on campus, voted down the university's most recent contract offer. Negotiations have been going on since last June, the contract expired in mid-July and a federal mediator joined the meetings in December. The last bargaining session was on March 7.

The union and university, along with the mediator, will next meet Monday and Tuesday.

Campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said staff were able to manage operations during the strike.

"Dining services were open all hours they were normally open and they served the full menu. Things that were supposed to be cold were cold and things that were supposed to be hot were hot," she said.

Restrooms in residence halls were cleaned at least once a day, she said. Employees who did come in to work were assigned to essential areas like Nugent Hall where students with disabilities live.

"We kept the toilet paper and paper towels refilled as quickly as possible," she said, however, there were some reports of plugged toilets and sinks.

One issue that surfaced later in the strike was garbage piling up in exterior garbage cans because union truck drivers did not want to cross picket lines.

"What we felt was crucially important during the strike was union solidarity and the message it sent not only to the university but to the country," Ammons said.

"The working class will not be divided. We stand together," he said, adding that members were grateful to other union members who were willing to take a financial sacrifice to stand by SEIU.

Of the approximately 775 workers, Ammons estimated about 15 to 17 employees decided to cross the lines and continue working. The union's bylaws allow the union to investigate those cases and its executive board can decide if it wants to levy penalties against those who cross picket lines.

UI police responded to a few calls about blocked entrances and officers informed picketers about their rights to picket but not restrict access. Union members complied, Kaler said.

Throughout negotiations, SEIU members have expressed concerns about better wages, the university contracting out some of their work, and they have accused the university of retaliatory discipline during negotiations, which the university denies.

The most recent offer from the university included a wage increase in excess of 2.5 percent during the first year of the agreement and guaranteed wage increases through 2015, according to the university.

The three-year contract proposal called for building service workers to move from an entry rate of $12.47 an hour to $17.09 an hour after completing two years. Cooks have a current entry rate of $12.91 an hour and can move up to $14.79 an hour after two years and to $17.49 after four years.

The proposal also called for wage rates to be increased by 50 cents per hour, retroactive to August 2012, in the first year; 30 cents per hour in the second year; and 25 cents per hour in the third year. Members were guaranteed adjustments in the second and third years matching the campus salary plans if the campus wage increases exceeded the negotiated raises, according to the university. Raises under the campus wage program can vary annually. In fall 2012, the average was 2.5 percent, and in 2011 it was 3 percent. However, it was zero in the preceding two years.

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milobri wrote on March 14, 2013 at 11:03 am

It was very peaceful in my building, people working were actually happy to be doing so.  Please strike again

welive wrote on March 14, 2013 at 12:03 pm

ok so please hire me right now to work for 12.47 per hour to sweep floors and take out the garbage.Plus i get health benifits. Thats a lot of money if we really think about it.Maybe the university should do like the schools do now and contract that work out to Aramark so then they get paid 8.75 per hour with no benifits?either way 12.47 per hour to swept the floor where do i sign up.America is the only place where people feel they deserve 12.00 per hour to take out garbage swept the floor ect.

Bulldogmojo wrote on March 14, 2013 at 12:03 pm

You go here and apply https://jobs.illinois.edu/ Nothing stoppng you.

Or were you just being spiteful against people you have never met to make a point? or like the poster before you Milobri (the same few posters use so many psuedonyms I can't keep them straight), were you just contemptuous but you don't want to tell them to their faces or even in an email your declaration of contempt of their very presence.

I always make this challenge, tell the people you work with what contempt you have for them, be honest send them an email and give your view. This isn't the human resources complaint board.

They will never actually do it because they would rather simmer in their resentments over their own lot in life and declare that others must lose for them to feel like they have won. Not unlike the religious that way.

Sid Saltfork wrote on March 14, 2013 at 1:03 pm

They gloat without understanding the purpose of the strike.  It was a three day strike to provide the university insight on what would happen with a longer strike.  A strike two weeks before the semester ends; or at the beginning of the fall semester would be devastating to the students, and their parents.  Some of management had to get their hands dirty for a few days.  They would not do that for any length of time.  Talks are on again leading to a reasonable contract.  That was the purpose of the strike.  People were tested like they are with their religious beliefs, or non-religious beliefs.  Whether they believe, or do not believe in religion; they came together in solidarity. 

welive wrote on March 14, 2013 at 2:03 pm

So you feel that 12.50 per hour is a good rate to swept the floors and wash dishes?

I dont feel they should make anymore money then they currently do.This is just my opionion.

Again its America so i think we can still have that right? And you got me wrong i will tell anyone the same thing to their face that i would behind their back. 12.50 to push a broom with benifits wow and we wonder why the u of i says we are broke.

 

 

Bulldogmojo wrote on March 14, 2013 at 4:03 pm

They were out there for three days and would have been easy to find with their signs why didn't you tell them when they were all together? Did you apply at the jobs link I provided for you?

Yeah that's what I thought.

C-U Townie wrote on March 14, 2013 at 2:03 pm

Ok. So $12.47 x 37.5 hours/week. Roughly $24000/year. Break that down to $2000/month BEFORE taxes. Once you add in taxes and everything else that’s taken out (soc security, retirement, healthcare) let’s say you get $1500/month take home.

So what does that go to? Rent/mortgage we’ll say is $700. Food/Groceries is $250. Cell phone $30. Utilities maybe $100. Car payment $200. Car insurance $70. Gas for the car $80. Trash collection $15. Internet $30. Incidentals like kitchen supplies, bathroom supplies toiletries $25.   

That leaves you with a whole $0 for the just in case. Supporting a family if you’re a single parent, and I’ll say this John Doe we’ve budgeted for has only one child, and you’re in a whole world of hurt if something comes up like a medical bill or little Suzy has a field trip for school or needs to bring snack one day or a number of other things that can come up with children.

So you’re right. How dare an employee ask for a higher wage. Do you pay attention to how the economy works? Do you get that things cost more these days thanks to those up on the Hill?

Just out of curiosity, how much do you make a year? Do you have a spouse or children to support? Could YOU live off of $12.47? And why do you think that’s too much to pay someone to do a job it sounds like you wouldn’t want to do.

gamera wrote on March 14, 2013 at 3:03 pm

You forgot that as a university employee you are required to pay for dental and medical insurance plus almost 15% of your gross income goes straight into the retirement fund that doesn't exist and won't pay out. So tack on about $300 monthly for insurance and retirement.

welive wrote on March 14, 2013 at 8:03 pm

And yes i did go to the link you provided thank you.and FYI i own my own business last year i made a cool 27000.00 per year and i truly work on the average 60 hours per week seven days a week. So i will let you do the math on the per hour.And i dont have health ins no 401 no dental. i guess i would take the cool check and guess what work a part time job.

So now your turn how much do you make and would you do the same job for the same wage? and if so great and if thats what you currently do heres a good tip.Go to school and get a btter job since you work for the U of I you do get a price reduction on class right?

 

ckgenzel06 wrote on March 14, 2013 at 10:03 pm

Yes we do get a price reduction on classes, but guess what you have to find a way to take classes around your scheduled time and if you are like me with young children, you will probably never see them awake if you decide to take classes.  Here is an inside look at working in food services, you do make pretty decent money but you also don't work year round.. What that means is when the students are off so are you.. So you get laid off 4 times a year (on average about 4 1/2 months out of the year you are laid off), can't get any sort of assistance (no link, no wic, not even CCRS) if you are married because you make to much even when you are on layoff.  So you really want to go there and tell me that we don't deserve a raise of any kind.. Walk a mile in my shoes doing my job and trying to decide if it is going to be power you pay or if you purchase food  during layoff periods before you start telling what we deserve and what we don't..

 

Bulldogmojo wrote on March 14, 2013 at 11:03 pm

Well if I do the math right you gross less than 9 dollars an hour that's if you only take one week a year off and with no benefits. I hope you at least love what you do because it sounds like your business is failing.

Sid Saltfork wrote on March 20, 2013 at 10:03 am

Car detailing is a tough, competitive business.  You can get a tax break on a computer for the business.

The spiteful comments toward the U. of I. employees are indicative of people who complain about their neighbor buying a new car.  Greed, and jealousy are the motivators for the spiteful comments.  The country is becoming a nation of the working poor.

Bulldogmojo wrote on March 20, 2013 at 11:03 am

Most people I have known who have started their own business did not even have the basic business math skills or resources to take that risk and it was started out of a desire to no longer have to answer to a boss. They just wanted to get up every day and wing it. Most of those people failed at their business with disastrous financial problems. Meanwhile they write their losses off on their taxes and leave the rest of us bailing them out.

Jego81 wrote on March 21, 2013 at 5:03 pm

I'm glad they got their raise, Unit #4 schools custodians really deserve a raise! We do game set-ups & tear-downs, all first line building maintenance, snow removal, etc, etc. way more than UofI has to do and the benefits are worse and you start at $11.40.. THEY should strike..  UofI employees have better benefits, do less work, and now after 2 years will be at $17!! wow. I'll keep looking for an opening...