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

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Local union’s rally results in confrontation with Dean

Members and supporters of AFSCME 3700 gathered to protest the firing of Catherine Nguyen, a library clerk at the University.
Lisa Chasanov
Union supporters and members rally outside of main library on Wednesday

Members of AFSCME local 3700, a union representing University support and clerical staff workers, held a rally on Wednesday protesting the planned dismissal of Catherine Nguyen, a library clerk who they claim was unjustly fired because of her disability. 

The rally began in front of the Main Library before eventually making its way to the office of University Dean of Libraries and Librarian Claire Stewart, sparking confrontation between her and the protesters. 

Members of AFSCME local 3700 gave personal testimonies in support of Nguyen, who’s been a clerk at the university for a decade, according to an AFSCME member.

 A letter from members of AFSCME at the Peoria Public Library was read to a crowd consisting of members of various local unions, including steelworkers’ unions and the Graduate Employees Organization.

An injury to one is an injury to all,” the letter read, echoing the air of solidarity coursing through the rally. “So we will be here and there for you in this fight.”

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A large crowd consisting of members and supporters of the union walked to the administrative suite, stood outside of the door to Stewart’s office, and attempted to communicate with Stewart through her assistant. 

About ten minutes later, Stewart exited her office to acknowledge the officers in the administrative suite and the group packed into the hallway.

 Nguyen stood to the left of the door as AFSCME local 3700 Staff Representative Christina DeAngelo presented a petition with over 500 signatures opposing the firing.

“Catherine’s job still exists here at the library, and you have the power as the new dean to change this — you have the power to reinstate her,” DeAngelo said. “We have collected hundreds of signatures asking to reverse this decision…. Do you have a response or anything to say to Catherine about the layoff?”

The dean then turned to face the group, briefly glancing at Catherine.

“I’m not — we are not reversing the layoff,” Stewart said.

After a brief protest from the crowd, Stewart lifted a cell phone to her ear.

Stewart told the person on the call, “Skye,” that she was “pulled out of her office” and “recorded against her will” by the protesters. 

AFSCME local 3700 President Greg Brannan alleged the person on the phone with Stewart, “Skye,” was a University human resources professional who had negotiated with the union the day before.

“Actually, I do know who Skye is,” Brannan said. “We talked to her yesterday. We had a meeting to prevent this (rally) from happening. Basically, the University dug in their heels — so, here we are today. But Skye was in that meeting.”

Still on the phone, Stewart told the crowd that someone was contacting the University Police Department to remove the protesters from the building because they were “obstructing the work environment.”

The protesters then exited the building, reacting to the news from the dean with chants and “boos.”

The library, in response to an increase in use of digital content in recent years, has eliminated the Library Clerk job series because there was no longer sufficient work to justify full-time employment of the single individual remaining in this series, said Heather Murphy, the library’s chief communications officer, in a written statement. The University administration has had frequent discussions with the appropriate union representatives and had previously agreed to delay the implementation of any layoffs while trying to reach a potential resolution.

DeAngelo said that union members are dissatisfied with the uncertainty of University responses.

“I am very disappointed that the dean will not use her power to reverse this decision, and that the dean does not think that discussing the loss of a job, a pension and health insurance of one of her staff is important enough to take time to talk to us,” DeAngelo said. “I’m not sure exactly what happened on that phone call, but what I do know is that the dean, Claire Stewart, has the power to reverse the decision — and that’s who we’ll be talking to.”

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About the Contributors
Lisa Chasanov, Managing Editor for Reporting
Howdy! My name is Lisa, my game is delivering quality news to your phone screen, coffee table and recycling bin. Since fall 2022, I have had the honor of writing, editing and often-unsuccessfully pitching content for The Daily Illini. During my time at the 152-year-old news source, I have served as a reporter at our news desk, summer editor and assistant news editor. Most recently, after a rewarding year of bringing you hard-hitting stories such as “Uncut: Dissecting Circumcision” and “‘Surf’s Up’ could be the film of the summer,” I have taken over as managing editor for reporting. In my free time, you can find me performing open heart surgery in dark alleys, communicating telepathically with small woodland creatures and engaging in otherwise dubious activities. If you would like to summon me for any reason, you can find me at [email protected]. Good Yard. Stay tuned for more.
Aidan Sadovi, Assistant News Editor
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