U of I Building & Food Service Workers Ratify 3-Year Contract

SEIU Local 73 rallies on the last day of its strike in 2013.

SEIU Organizer Ricky Baldwin addresses building and food service workers on the University of Illinois Urbana campus in 2013, during a strike for the contract that expired last summer. SEIU members ratified a new contract over the weekend without a strike.

(Jeff Bossert/WILL)

Building and food service workers at the University of Illinois’ Urbana campus have ratified a new three-year contract, retroactive to last summer.

Spokesman Ricky Baldwin, spokesman for the Service Employees International Union Local #73 says the new contract includes raises for workers in each year, including a 2% raise for the first year. Baldwin says getting those raises was a big victory for the workers.

“Management had come to the table initially proposing no wage increases at all”, said Baldwin. “And even when this two percent was offered to the campus … they were not offering any wage increases for the second and third year of the contract. And we’ve got guaranteed wages for the second and third year. So that’s a huge deal for us.”

Baldwin says the new contract also revises change building service worker seniority rules to the union’s liking, applying seniority on a department-wide basis, instead of just across a shift. For food service workers, Baldwin says the new contract includes language spelling out benefits that weren’t written down before, like the right to take leaves of absence for funerals and jury duty.

The contract covers 720 building and food service workers on the Urbana campus. That’s a reduction from 800 workers not too long ago, due to attrition. Baldwin says the reduction points to staffing issues that SEIU had hoped to address in the new contract, but were not able to.

As negotiations for a new contract continued months past the expiration of the old, four-year agreement, SEIU members held what Baldwin describes as “dozens of actions, pickets and rallies”. They included one event where members sang union-themed carols outside the official residence of U of I President Timothy Killeen shortly before Christmas. But unlike negotiations for the previous contract in 2012-13, union members did not go on strike.

University of Illinois Urbana campus spokesperson Robin Kaler says the new contract is fair to both sides, and “takes into account the economic uncertainty we face because the state of Illinois continues to be without a budget.”

Story source: WILL