The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Workers protest for higher wages

A mixed crowd of building and food service workers, union members of Service Employees International Union Local 73, students and volunteers gathered in the bitter cold in front of the ARC at 7:30 a.m. to protest for higher wages and workers’ benefits.

Ricky Baldwin, Field Organizer for the SEIU Local 73 and Urbana resident, said that the SEIU Local 73 has been trying to reach a compromise with University officials since June of last year.

“We’ve came with our initial proposals back then. They (University Officials) didn’t come up with any proposals for us in the beginning. We tried to work with them. So far they rejected everything that we proposed. They did make some proposals in July. They made some proposals to cut our wages by 13 percent for the new hires,” Baldwin said.

One of the main issues workers protested for was a raise. Much of this sentiment comes from the fact that the President got a 37.5 percent raise and his executive assistant received a 81 percent raise, and spending 1.7 million dollars on consultants to teach administrators how to make decisions together in a program called Planning to Plan, Baldwin said. Shawn Beyers, building service worker and Urbana resident, said it wasn’t fair for University Officials to not give them a raise, when University higher ups are given such raises.

“The President is getting a pay raise. Trustees are looking the other way as far as all the extra money they say is not coming in, but then they can afford to give the president the money to redo his mansion. It’s the little people like us that are getting screwed in the deal,” Beyers said.

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    Officials also rejected some proposals that wouldn’t cost any money such as allowing workers to place a bid to switch to another job within another department if there are openings and the worker has enough seniority, Baldwin said. Some departments don’t offer that ease of biding to switch to another department upon a job opening. Ultimately, the University Officials rejected such a proposal because they wanted the flexibility to move people around, Baldwin said.

    Workers in the Chicago campus of the University of Illinois also face the difficulties of trying to achieve a contract that they would be satisfied with. Workers threatened to strike twice and after the second time they finally negotiated on an agreement after a year and a half, Baldwin said.

    Thursday the workers from building and food services will get to vote whether to give the bargaining team from the SEIU authority to call a strike. From there, members from the bargaining team would go back to University Officials to negotiate for a possible agreement. If an agreement doesn’t sound plausible to union members then they have to give 10 days notice to call for a strike, Baldwin said.

    Students also came to support the protest. Rebecca Marcott, a junior in engineering, is part of the student organization, Undergraduate Alliance, that fights against budget cuts and tuition hikes, along with supporting the workers.

    “It’s part of a campus effort by the board to push through budget cuts. I think with the tax hikes that just went through, the University can definitely come up with money for the workers,” Marcott said.

    There was also some safety concerns that Robyn Deterding, Director of Campus Recreation, saw with the protesters being right in front of the entrance.

    “I don’t mind that they’re there. My concern was when the student were getting off the bus, they had to weave through them and I thought it might be a little intimidating or concerning of what was going on. I just don’t want them to impede any of our users,” Deterding said.

    Union members will have a meeting with University officials after the protest to see if they can come up with an agreement once again.

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