Update: U Of I Dining & Building Service Workers Vote To Authorize Strike

July 01, 2019
 

The dining hall at Pennsylvania Residence Hall on the University of Illinois Urbana campus.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

A federal mediator will begin overseeing negotiations Tuesday between the University of Illinois and the union representing 700 dining and building service workers at the Urbana campus.

In a vote held Saturday, about 90% of union members voted to authorize a strike, according to a spokesperson for the SEIU Local 73 chapter at the U of I. The authorization allows the negotiating team to issue a strike notice if they feel it’s warranted.

The workers have been negotiating with the U of I since last November.

Chief negotiator Ricky Baldwin said they came to the table asking for a dollar-an-hour raise and were willing to meet somewhere in the middle.

The U of I’s current offer stands at 18 cents an hour, he said.

“That’s less than 1 percent for a lot of our folks,” Baldwin said. “We now know that health insurance is going up, the university is raising the parking fees. So, the 18 cents doesn’t even keep up with inflation. We feel like the university is daring us to strike, quite frankly.”

Baldwin said building service workers make roughly $35,000 a year. Food service workers make about half that much, because they get temporarily laid off whenever school’s out. 

If a majority of workers present Saturday vote to authorize a strike, the negotiating team could decide to issue a strike notice if they feel negotiations are continuing to stall. 

That’s not an outcome Baldwin wants to see. 

“If we can resolve a contract, get a good deal, offer it to the members to vote on it, if they accept that, that’s the best outcome,” Baldwin said.

The last time U of I dining and building service workers went on strike was  in 2013, he said. That strike lasted three days.

Baldwin said workers are also concerned about under-staffing, which he calls “severe and dangerous.” He said some people are asked to cover multiple jobs, they’re at greater risk of injury.

In a statement, U of I spokesperson Robin Kaler said progress in negotiations has been made, and the health and safety of staff, faculty and students is top priority. 

Kaler said the U of I will continue to bargain in good faith to reach a fair agreement.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the outcome of the strike authorization vote.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman

Story source: WILL