UI building, restaurant workers protest before contract negotiations | University illinois
CHAMPAIGN – Workers cleaning University of Illinois buildings and feeding students on campus moved to Kirby Avenue Wednesday in protest of recent frustrations with their employer.
The increase in roster changes, wage differentials and staff shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic are their main concerns ahead of the union’s first collective bargaining on November 18, which will address the workers’ new contract before their current agreement expires in August 2022.
“They say we are ‘indispensable workers,’ but they treat us like we are disposable items,” said Dena Gary, president of Service Employees International Union Local 73, who works at the Illinois Street Residence Dining Hall.
Around 800 employees in building services, catering and UI facilities are represented by SEIU Local 73, who helped organize the protest on Wednesday.
Workers and union officials said “uncompetitive” wages have led to staff shortages in the departments and forced some workers to take over the jobs of two or three other employees.
“Our salary has not kept pace with the minimum wage, which is now increasing by a dollar a year,” said Ricky Baldwin, senior field organizer for Local 73. “This wage cut has created a huge hiring problem because you can go to different places and places do more. “
The minimum wage in Illinois is set to rise to $ 15 an hour in 2025, which could impact UI workers’ new contract.
Kelsey Hayes worked for a local contractor for 12 years before starting a building technician position at Lincoln Avenue Residence Hall in April 2020.
“I came here because the pay was so much better,” she said. “But you can see that all of these other places get higher wages. You need to be more competitive on payment. “
And while shrinking employees plague employers across the country, Hayes said her colleagues’ concerns have outlived the pandemic.
To help implement new cleaning procedures and protocols during the pandemic, more than 100 of UI’s personal staff changed their schedules at the start of the final school year.
“There is this apparent lack of care for people who have been on campus throughout the pandemic and it seems like they are taking us for granted as we will always be here,” said Hayes. “We have to feel respected”
Some other frustrations have caught workers’ attention. Almost 200 factory employees who work a higher-paying night shift from 11pm to 7am have still not received the correct shift difference in their checks.
Although the difference is “pennies” in most cases, according to the union, some of the wage delays have lasted months or even more than a year.
“We worked with the Office of Business and Financial Services to calculate and distribute back payments and ensure the difference is paid correctly in the future,” said Robin Kaler, spokesman for the UI campus.
Union officials claim a negotiation request was sent on September 14, but the university did not make an appointment for two months.
“The university appreciates the significant contribution made by our employees, who are represented by the SEIU,” said Kaler. “Your current contract will not expire until August 2022, and we are in negotiations with other unions whose contracts will expire earlier.”