ISU employee union votes overwhelmingly to ratify new contract
Heard and respected.
That's how Illinois State University employee and AFSCME Local 1110 president Chuck Carver said union members feel after voting late Tuesday into early Wednesday morning on a new contract with the university.
Around 92% of the group's 300-plus members voted to ratify a contract that came after more than two dozen negotiating sessions between the union and university.
"Not only do we feel heard, but we feel like we are respected on this campus now," Carver told WGLT. "I truthfully feel like they will respect us now on this campus with all of the following that we had. They know we're here on campus now, for sure."
Building service, grounds, dining and other workers labored without a contract since last June, although negotiating sessions didn't start until the fall semester. Sticking points between the two groups centered largely on wages, including the starting rate of the union's lowest-paid workers.
Highlights of the agreed-upon new contract include pay increases ranging from 12-26% over four years, with those increases retroactively dating back to October, and the lowest wage set to nearly $15 an hour, up from just over $12. The contract's start date is retroactive to July 1, 2021, and is set to expire on June 30, 2025.
Carver said "nearly all" of the union's goals had been fulfilled in the newest contract proposal; ISU has not been issuing statements on the negotiations but has maintained a website that provided general status updates.
In its most recent update, ISU leadership said it "appreciates the many vital roles our employees represented by AFSCME Local 1110 fulfill on our campus. We are pleased to continue to provide these employees with a very competitive total compensation package that, in addition to wages, also includes generous vacation time, sick leave, pension plan contributions, tuition waiver benefits, and multiple health insurance options for which ISU covers more premium cost than most other employers."
Carver hopes ratification of the contract and the provisions for which the union advocated help draw new employees to a sector that has been chronically understaffed. He added that a demonstrable showing of support from the community recently, specifically non-union members, likely helped push things forward.
"The only thing that surprised me was the majority of how many students, how many faculty, supported (us)," he said. "It's not too often that you see people in that size of a group get together and show support for one another. If it was like that every single time, nobody would be arguing over a contract."