Union under oversight by international

Union under oversight by international

URBANA — A union representing 1,300 clerical and technical workers at the University of Illinois is now being run by its international organization as it prepares for the next round of contract negotiations with the university.

In an Oct. 8 letter to the university, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said union officials had "found it necessary" to place AFSCME Local 3700 under the "administratorship" of the international union. The letter was sent from AFSCME President Lee Saunders to Elyne Cole, UI associate provost for human resources.

But Laura Drake, senior organizer for the statewide AFSCME Council 31, said Friday that Local 3700 had requested the move earlier this fall.

Typically, an administratorship is used when there's an internal problem with the local, but "in this case, it does not," said Jeff Bigelow, regional director for AFSCME Council 31, who supervises the union's Urbana field office.

Bigelow said union members were unhappy with the UI's stance in the last round of contract talks, which dragged on for a year, and with current wage negotiations for more than 150 positions involving new job titles or workers that recently joined Local 3700.

"I think they recognized that they were dealing with essentially a management at the university that required greater strength and power, so they want to help build that. That's really all that this is about," Bigelow said Friday. "They wanted to bring all the resources they had to bear on this problem.

"We'll be working with the local and leaders within the local to help build greater power, greater involvement, greater participation and greater awareness of what the university is doing," he said.

The contract covering all Local 3700 members expires in August 2014, and negotiations will likely begin next spring, Bigelow said.

"All of this leads up to that," he said.

AFSCME's field representative in Urbana recently took another job, but Bigelow and Drake said that had nothing to do with the move to an administratorship.

Drake has been named deputy administrator of the local, and Joe Guzynski, area field services director for AFSCME International in Minnesota, will serve as administrator.

Drake conceded the arrangement is unusual. But she said UI officials will continue to communicate with Local 3700 President Dorinda Miller — who works in the UI Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences — and copy both Drake and Guzynski on all communications.

"All it does is give them additional assistance," Drake said. "It's not really changing anything."

The university sent out a memo explaining the change to human resources managers across campus on Friday.

"Some of our business with unions is initiated by departments, and we wanted to respect the request of the union that any communications with them included not just the local president, but also the two local administrators," campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said.

Kaler said the current wage negotiations between the UI and Local 3700 involve 156 employees and two vacant positions in about a dozen job classifications, 118 of them in Extension jobs throughout the state. The talks have been going on since December 2012, she said.

The Extension positions include 42 work program participants and 76 community workers in Extension. Bigelow said their duties include educating youths, seniors and adults about nutrition and food budgets.

Other positions affected are 10 admissions and records representatives, three assistant records management officers, 17 customer services representatives, three program assistants, two retail services supervisors, one service officer supervisor, one special events facilitator and one vacant position for an interpreter for the hard of hearing, as well as two office support positions at Dixon Springs (one of them vacant), Kaler said.

Bigelow said the university has resisted giving union-level wages and benefits to new positions with the same or nearly identical titles to jobs already in the bargaining unit. He said some people in the Extension classifications have 20 years of service and still earn less than $12.40 an hour.

"The challenge is that you've got to look at those positions, those jobs, and compare and contrast them with similar jobs in this community or those communities," Kaler replied.

In the last contract talks, Bigelow said, the UI proposed eliminating or cutting back the pay "steps" in the union's contract, automatic raises that employees get as they move up a year on the wage schedule.

Drake said those step increases have helped hundreds of employees improve their standard of living. Local 3700 members are frustrated by what they see as a trend at the university to "reward people at the top with bigger and bigger salaries, and the lowest-paid people are falling further and further behind," she said.

Kaler said the union's claims are "neither fair nor accurate."

"We always bargain in good faith, and we pay the most competitive wages in this market for these types of positions," she said.

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sweet caroline wrote on November 02, 2013 at 11:11 am

Local 3700 members are frustrated by what they see as a trend at the university to "reward people at the top with bigger and bigger salaries, and the lowest-paid people are falling further and further behind," she said.

Kaler said the union's claims are "neither fair nor accurate."

Yes, it IS fair and accurate, Ms. Kaler.  I sit and watch the APs and profs in my department get promoted with big raises all the time.  They don't realize that without support staff, they'd be working 24 hours a day.  Support staff are treated as the bottom of the barrel. 

Kremlin Watcher wrote on November 02, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Sweet Caroline is right. Union criticisms of UI are valid. UI has great faculty, but they depend heavily on a great many folks with little or no job security. Academic professionals, clerical staff, graduate students. None of these others are compensated in any fair proportion to their duties and time. Many work overtime or off the clock.

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 02, 2013 at 7:11 pm

How many Academic Professionals, and Faculty are "working from home" in one week during a semester?  How many staff make coffee, clean tables, or otherwise work outside of their classification per Academic Professionals, or Faculty orders?

If the university really wants to save money; it should require working from the work site (office) with every employee doing what they are paid to do during the work day.

The Middle Ages are over.  There are no Lords, and Ladies needed in a public university.

sweet caroline wrote on November 02, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Bravo, Sid!  I see a lot of 2-hour lunches, as well as APs, faculty, and other Lords and Ladies "forgetting" to report that they took a day off here and there.  Although they're on salary, they're still supposed to report those days.  A civil service employee would not get by with that. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 03, 2013 at 9:11 am

No other state employee whether they work on a campus, or off a campus gets by with what an academian gets by with in their paid duties.  There are hard working faculty, and APs; but even they know the abuses in travel, time, and availability ("Call me at home if someone calls for me.")   You, and I could give numerous examples.  Sooner, or later; the public in their zeal to curtail state government's cost will target the universities.  The private universities will see an increase in applicants at that time. 

Bulldogmojo wrote on November 04, 2013 at 12:11 pm

The University has become ever more increasingly aggressive in their stone-walling negotiations including just not showing up for the bargaining meetings

Phyllis Wise's "Visioning plan" (or whatever they are calling it this week) does not speak to reconstituting all of the civil service jobs lost through attrition over the last decade or more, just hiring 500 academics without regard to the support that would require. The step plan was designed in large part to provide a fair and equitable pay eliminating the subjective departmental call to pay one person more over another based on nepotism or unfair personal criteria. Phyllis Wise claims to be making equal pay for women a priority but her bargaining team, (when they show up) are trying to aggressively dismantle that step plan. As far as Kaler's comments go, she spits out whatever talking point she is instructed to say, that is when budget VP Randall Kangas isn't doing the same. No surprises there.

AFSCME certainly isn't isolated in its siege from the university in driving out unions.

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2012-08-02/ui-denies-attempt-brea...

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2013-01-25/seiu-authorizes-strike.html

However in regard to this article's claims about an "invited" administration status...Well, There is the press release and then there is what really happened.

Mike wrote on November 05, 2013 at 10:11 pm

Sid, seriously. I don't know why you're so insecure about your world, but get over the "working from home" thing. You may know someone that did that once or twice, but that is not a prevalant thing on campus. More likely, APs and faculty are required to be "on call" 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even if I take a vacation day to be at home for whatever reason, I'm expected to answer e-mail, make sure to take care of any problems at work, etc., etc.

Yet if I want to paint my cinder block office, I'm not "allowed" to. I could buy a can of paint for $20 at Menards and come in on a Saturday and paint, but I can't. That's "taking away work" from some Union fellow. Instead the department has to pay F&S some ridiculous, exorbitant amount for them to put us on their calendar and they'll come do it in two months. And take three days to do it, when painting a 6 x 12 room should take 2 hours. 

They drive their F&S vehicles all over the sidewalks. I see them in the credit union drive thru--really? McDonald's. Why are all these University vehicles being used for presumably personal things? 

Quit with the "working from home." I'm working whether I'm at work, at home, on vacation, etc. This article had NOTHING to do with Faculty or APs yet you insist on bringing up some personal, petty issue you have every single time.

I'm glad that AFSCME is coming in and taking over negotiation for Local 3700. Because the folks that run Local 3700 are idiots and did a terrible, terrible, horrible, terrible job negotiating with the University this last "go around." They didn't even correctly explain to their members at voting time what was being voted on because they didn't understand. They seriously need some help. Step raises were essentially wiped out of the last contract, even though 3700 made it sound to members like they weren't. 

I can paint and empty my garbage. Can you folks do what I do at work every day? Doubtful. So shut up about it already. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on November 06, 2013 at 8:11 am

Mike; you may be the greatest AP on campus; but those of us who worked, or still work on campus know that your full of beans about the "working from home".  You may make yourself available 24/7; but the rest of us know that is not the norm for the majority of APS, and faculty.  Your not "allowed" to paint your office, cinder block or not, because the others may choose to paint their offices with neon paint, or do a half posterior job that requires real painters to redo it.  By the way, it is not YOUR office.  It is not your personal property.  Neither is the furniture.  Why would F&S drive their vehicles on the sidewalks?  Maybe, you should look at the streets, and worksite.  Sorry, that it inconveinced you to step aside.  Maybe, you should wear your "I Am Somebody Special" vest to make them stop.

How can you do a decent job when your on vacation with your family?  Come On, Mike, don't try to make it sound like your on duty 24/7 like Homeland Security!  All of your gang is gone over semester breaks, weeks for Christmas, and a long part of the summer.  Don't make it sound like your indispensible.

Your anti-union, and an elitist.  "I can paint and empty my garbage. Can you folks do what I do at work every day?  Doubtful. So shut up about it already."  Mike, I do not know what you do at work.  You do not know what the members of AFSCME do at work.  I was a professional, and proudly an AFSCME member.  I was a state employee on campus who handled a budget in excess of $900,000 annually.  I, also, can paint and empty my garbage; but I don't mess with electricity.

You are special, Mike.  Sadly for you; you are not a Prince, Duke, or Earl though.  You are a university employee just like the painters, clericals, etc....  

Bulldogmojo wrote on November 06, 2013 at 9:11 am

Mike I would suggest that you be fired but you would still get a whole year at full pay and benefits to find another job, a luxury unheard of in just about every workplace public or private.

If you have a problem with F&S walk into their offices and report the violations. Just an FYI to save you some embarrassment, F&S grounds vehicles sometimes drive on the sidewalk to get to areas that are inaccessible. Sometimes the campus police do to, so make sure to confront them as well you brave warrior of the people.

Also who promised you a cathedral ceiling office with a view designed by I.M. Pei ? 

"Sent from my iPhone" does NOT equal work. As proof of this... 

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/technology/2013/03/marissa-mayer-work-home-ban-working/62810/

People only respect what is inspected, now get in your concrete box and apply yourself.

abmam wrote on November 06, 2013 at 4:11 pm

Bravo, Council 31.  High time you 'assisted' Local 3700's leadership and stepped in to stop the bleeding.