From WILL - News Headlines -

U of I Service Workers Won’t Strike

The Service Employees International Union Local 73 has reached an agreement with the University of Illinois over a new contract.

The union represents about 800 food and building service employees on the Urbana campus who threatened to go on strike Monday if an agreement couldn't be reached. But SEIU field organizer Ricky Baldwin said union members voted with overwhelming support over the weekend to approve a contract, which includes about a three percent pay raise.

"I think it's the best contract we could have gotten, and we're proud of that," Baldwin said. "We know we wouldn't have gotten it without the solidarity of our members, and also our campus allies."

The U of I and the union have been negotiating over a new contract since last summer. Workers began regularly picketing in December. In March, a federal mediator was brought in to help facilitate the contract negations.

Baldwin said a major victory in the contract is a provision allowing workers with seniority to be able to choose certain jobs, rather than leaving it up solely to managers.

"We've been trying to get that for about 20 years," he explained.

Baldwin noted that some workers who have had disciplinary problems or who are doing a poor job in the workplace may be ineligible for this right.

During the contract negotiations, SEIU officials accused the University of replacing some union positions with lower-paid workers, mainly students. Baldwin said that issue is not addressed in this latest deal, but he hopes it is included after the contract expires in July 2012.