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Workers picket again as contract negotiations stall

Building service workers picketed once again outside of the Activities and Recreation Center before contract negotiations with the University early Tuesday morning. Despite the cold, workers were present to express their displeasure with the University’s negotiating tactics.

Ricky Baldwin, senior field organizer of Service Employees International Union (SEIU Local 73), led the workers in negotiating and picketing.

“We see them hiring a new vice president and opening a new office, so we don’t believe they have any money,” Baldwin said.

Food and building service workers said they want a new wage contract with the University and with added job securities and wages. The two sides have been negotiating since the old contract expired in July. Baldwin said he believes a mediator is now necessary.

“They just haven’t responded to anything,” Baldwin said.

Robin Kaler, University spokeswoman, told The Daily Illini the University does not negotiate in the media, but that the workers have every right to picket. Baldwin said he believes a professional mediator would be able to bring the two sides closer together and is “another set of eyes and ears that can be reasonable.”

University workers recently came together to take up an intent to strike vote. Building service workers voted 98 percent in favor of a potential strike “if necessary.” Food service workers voted 94 percent in favor, as well.

“It’s almost like the University is daring us to strike, and I sincerely hope that is not the case because these people will do it,” Baldwin said.

He added that he has received several phone calls from workers asking him “when are we walking.”

If they do decide to strike, Baldwin said workers will picket and SEIU Local 73 will still pay them a partial amount to walk the picket lines. He added that any workers who went in and still worked for the University would have to pay a fine, however he did not believe that would be a problem.

Some of the picketers carried signs reading “U of I works because we do.” Baldwin pointed out how students would be affected if the workers do decide to go on strike.

“These people are the ones that shovel the snow, cook the food and clean the buildings, so it would be a severe inconvenience to students,” Baldwin said.

Some of the workers said past job cuts have left them understaffed. Now one person is responsible for what used to be two-or-three-person jobs and are only required to do them “pretty well.”

“The buildings aren’t as clean as they used to be. And if people go on strike, there will be severe reductions in maintenance,” Baldwin said.

The next negotiation is scheduled for Feb. 23.

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