Campus Labor Coalition not sweet on University’s negotiating practices

The Campus Labor Coalition spent Valentine’s Day showing that it is not feeling the love from the University’s administration.

It held a rally on the Quad Tuesday to raise awareness of issues its members are concerned about, such as the University’s relationship with unions on campus.

About 60 people were at the rally, including students and union members. The rally began behind the Illini Union and culminated with a march to the Henry Administration Building. Demonstrators marched all the way up to the third floor and placed their signs outside of University President Michael Hogan’s office chanting, “Whose University is this? Our University!”

The Graduate Employees’ Organization, the Illinois Education Association, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Association of Academic Professionals (AAP) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees all participated in the rally.

The relationship between the University and union groups is breaking down, said Rose Kaczmarowski, president of the University’s chapter of AAP.

“We wanted to go beyond the flowers and chocolate and bring to the forefront that it is not a healthy environment to build any kind of relationship,” Kaczmarowski said.

She said currently, the union she represents is suspended because they have been going back and forth with the administration for the past eight or nine months and cannot settle on some of the final issues. The group is currently seeking federal mediation.

“We were here on this holiday to ask the president and his Board of Trustees to have a heart and be fair to unions. We want to improve this dysfunctional relationship,” said Ricky Baldwin, spokesman for SEIU. “Last year when SEIU was bargaining, we were forced to file three unfair labor practice charges against the University, all of which the University ended up settling in our favor. They could have avoided those just by talking with us in the first place about mandatory issues that the law requires them to discuss with us.”

Baldwin says the most egregious issue at hand is between the Graduate Employees’ Organization, or GEO, and administration regarding some FAA graduate students’ “tuition waivers”:

Erin Heath, member of the GEO, said since the arbitration was ruled in its favor, the University has not responded to the ruling. In August, its contract with the University will be up and a whole new bargaining process will begin.

Baldwin said arbitration costs between $20,000 and $30,000. Half of the cost is paid by the University, and the other half by the union.

“The basic issue is when there is a hammer over their (administration’s) head, like a strike threat or an unfair labor practice charge, they will settle. Then when that passes, they back out and they are not good for their word. That is the practice we keep seeing over and over with different unions,” Baldwin said.