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Strikes loom on three Illinois college campuses

At Eastern Illinois University, a walkout could occur April 6.

Faculty and staff at three public universities in the state have given the go-ahead for work stoppages as contract negotiations have failed to result in an agreement. The cloud of uncertainty threatens to disrupt classrooms with just a few weeks to go in the spring semester.

The unions have been without contracts since last summer.

The latest action involves Governors State University in University Park. According to the union, 97% of members voting agreed to strike if a deal can’t be reached. A 10-day strike authorization has also been filed, meaning the earliest a walk out could occur is April 7.

Another negotiating session is planned for March 30. The sticking points are similar at all three campuses, including compensation and workload. At GSU, some academic advisors have had as many as 500 student advisees. According a union news release: “The advisors cannot possibly give students the support that they need with that kind of workload.”

Strikes could inching closer at Chicago State University and Eastern Illinois University as well.

The union at Chicago State represents about 160 faculty, lecturers, academic support professionals, and technical support staff. A recent strike authorization vote had 98% support of members. A notice has been filed that a strike could happen as early as April 3. More bargaining sessions are scheduled this week.

At Eastern Illinois University, a walkout could occur April 6.

“We’ve reached a point with this administration where it’s getting more and more difficult to see a path forward at the table," said Jennifer Stringfellow, president of EIU UPI and a special education professor.

The union said the university administration is proposing a pay cut for faculty and staff. Last fall, the union filed a grievance arguing the university was not bargaining in good faith.

Despite a federal mediator's involvement since November, the two sides have yet to resolve the contract dispute. Negotiating sessions are planned leading up the strike date.

Ahead of a possible strike on the Charleston campus, union members plan a “Teach-In” for students on Tuesday to share the status of negotiations and explain how a potential strike would affect their classes and coursework.