News Local/State

Campus Unions Seek Meeting With U Of I President

University of Illinois Urbana Campus union official and English lecturer Shawn Gilmore.

Shawn Gilmore, lecturer in the Dept. of English and president of the Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition at the University of Illinois Urbana campus, stands with other campus union officials outside the Henry Administration Building to call for a meeting between labor leaders and Pres. Timothy Killeen. Jim Meadows / Illinois Public Media

Leaders of labor unions on the University of Illinois’s Urbana campus say President Timothy Killeen has refused their request for a meeting. But an administration spokesman says otherwise. Members of the Campus Labor Coalition called for a meeting with Killeen during a Tuesday news conference outside of the Henry Administration Building on the Main Quad.

Coalition member Shawn Gilmore is president of NTFC Local #6546, the union for Urbana non-tenure-track faculty. He says labor leaders have met with past U of I presidents, including B. Joseph White and Michael Hogan. But he says repeated requests made since mid-summer to Killeen for a similar meeting have been turned down and in recent months, passed along to lower-level administrators.

Gilmore says the Campus Labor Coalition wants to discuss topics that are of mutual concern for both the administration and the unions. He says one of them involves “systemic problems” caused by the ever-increasing size of the Urbana campus’ freshman class, which reached a record 7,593 this fall.

“We bring in class after class of larger amounts of freshmen every year,” said Gilmore. “But we don’t do anything to proportionately increase our staff and faculty. And that creates reports about increased class sizes, about overcrowding within the dorms, about injuries on the job, because more people have to take on more responsibilities and work.”

Killeen has indicated he wants that growth to continue, and has asked U of I campuses to develop plans to grow 10-15 percent over the next six years.

University spokesman Tom Hardy denies the charge that Killeen has refused to meet with union leaders. He says the president has met with many of them before, although not under the umbrella of the Campus Labor Coalition.

But Hardy says a meeting between Killeen and the Campus Labor Coalition is possible in the near future, although no such meetings are planned. But he says such meeting should be limited to “high-level, broad issues.” But he says it’s inappropriate to have discussions that touch on topics that are subject to ongoing contract negotiations.

Members of the Campus Labor Coalition say they understand the need to issues under current negotiations out of the discussion. But they say previous meetings between union officials and presidents of the university also took place during negotiations, “but we always agreed to limit our discussions to other matters of mutual concern,” according to SEIU Local #73 Chapter 119 Vice-President Justus Fortado. Fortado’s union is currently in contract negotiations with the university.

The Campus Labor Coalition at the University of Illinois Urbana campus is made up of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Locals 698 & 3700; the Graduate Employees’ Organization; the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local #73; the Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition Local #6546; the Campus Faculty Association and unions representing trades workers.