Wage disputes persist



By Patrick Wade

More than just the weather made waves during Thursday’s move-in day on College Court, in between Florida Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Halls.

For just less than an hour in the afternoon, students and parents took time from unloading their cars to see University staff and faculty labor unions carry signs, beat bucket drums and shake noise-makers as they picketed around the court’s central median.

The protesters were professors, teaching assistants and service workers who are unhappy with University administrators and state legislators for not appropriating sufficient funds for staff and faculty raises.

On May 31, the Illinois state legislature passed a 2.76 percent increase in the University of Illinois system’s overall operating budget. The administration then announced on July 24 the Champaign-Urbana campus staff would receive a 1.5 percent wage increase, and the Champaign-Urbana campus faculty would receive a 2 percent salary increase.

One of Thursday’s marchers held a sign, “Show us the money.”

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University history professor Jim Barrett said this year’s salary increase was much lower than what employees were expecting, claiming state appropriations did not meet cost of living increases and the University’s budgeting for salary increases did not meet what was allocated by the state.

“Most of us feel that the appropriations from the state are really far too low,” Barrett said. “And if that happens one year, or two years or three, you can deal with it. But if it happens over a period of 20 years, which is what’s happened, it puts great pressure on the University.”

But the increases were not much lower than what was allocated by the state, said University spokesman Tom Hardy. He confirmed that the University system received a 2.76 percent budget increase from the state, to be distributed among all three campuses, but that does not necessarily translate into a 2.76 percent wage increase.

The overall increase provided the University of Illinois system with $20 million in new funding. This year’s salary program, Hardy said, calls for an average 1.5 percent wage increase for employees, and up to 2 percent for faculty — totaling $19.3 million in wage increases.

A portion of the new state funding is also being diverted to cover rising utility prices, Hardy said.

“I’m sure the labor unions know what the situation is,” Hardy said. “We’ve bargained with the labor unions in good faith.”

Some of Thursday’s marchers indicated there has been virtually no discussion between University administration and labor unions since the July 24 salary announcements.

“There seems to have been a change over the last eight to 10 years,” Barrett said. “In other words, the relationship was better between the University and the unions, maybe not quite as good now.”

Sarah Fuller, senior in AHS and resident adviser in PAR, was assisting with the move-in nearby when the rally started.

As anomalous as the march was, Fuller said, it just added to this year’s move-in day atmosphere.

“It’s chaos anyways,” she said.