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ISU employee union says it will vote to authorize a strike on Friday

Members of the union that represents building, grounds, laundry, dining and other service employees of Illinois State University plan to take a strike authorization vote on Friday.

Anders Lindall, a spokesperson for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1110, said the vote comes after 21 negotiating sessions between the two groups that have failed to produce a contract.

“Wages is the biggest issue; far too many employees are far too low paid,” said Lindall. “We really need to bring up the lowest-paid workers in this workforce.”

AFSCME Local 1110 members have worked without a contract since June, with provisions of the previous contract rolling over during the negotiating period, according to an ISU website.

ISU officials are not issuing direct statements on the matter, but have instead created webpages to track the “status of negotiations” and “frequently asked questions.”

The university plans to “continue meaningful discussions during… two additional negotiation sessions during the week of March 28,” according to its website.

Neither ISU nor the union are sharing wage proposals, with Lindall saying the union prefers to keep “bargaining at the bargaining table.” He added that some members of the 350-person union have quit their jobs to pursue other employment.

“There are other jobs out there that aren’t as thankless and that aren’t as tough and they pay just as much or more,” he said. “We’ve seen, lately, four people a month leaving this group; ISU has only been able to hire back an average of one (person) a month.”

Lindall said the shrinking ranks mean remaining employees “are doing two or three jobs at a time,” pointing to the outsourcing of workers to clear snow during February's snowstorm as a consequence of the university having too few grounds workers.

“If they (ISU) continue to have the wrong priorities, to be willing to put plenty of money into other parts of the university, but not into the workers who do the essential work behind the scenes that make ISU happen, employees are talking about what they're willing to do to secure the fair treatment, fair pay in respect that they deserve,” he said of Friday's strike authorization vote.

If that vote passes, it would give the union the ability to call a strike, although a 10-day notice to the university and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board is required to legally conduct one.

The vote “would be the strongest signal to management that employees are serious and they’re not going to take this intransigence and unfairness any longer,” Lindall said. “I think dining services, building and grounds, (other) employees are… ready to stand up and demand fairness from ISU — and they need the whole community to stand with them.”

Via its website, the university said it “remains optimistic that the parties will reach agreement without the need for a strike.”

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Lyndsay Jones is a reporter at WGLT. She joined the station in 2021. You can reach her at lljone3@ilstu.edu.
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