April 09, 2020

ISU clerical staff win contract

After nearly two years at the bargaining table with Illinois State University, members of AFSCME Local 3236 reached a four-year agreement with the university.

Providing clerical support to departments and the administration, these members make ISU work. Yet they had to fight hard to win this contract, which includes annual raises and finally starts rewarding longtime employees for their experience and dedication.

Bargaining team member and office support specialist Trish Gudeman said it was challenging to rally the local after years of being brushed aside by the administration. But rally they did—and they had the entire campus on their side.

“We rallied support from students, faculty and other staff,” Gudeman said. “They became outraged and came out with us, sending emails, rallying, causing a scene. Our members felt stronger when they saw the support from so many others at the university behind them.”

Negotiations dragged on and Gudeman and her fellow bargaining team members suspected the university was using it as a tactic: “They were trying to wear us down—but we eventually wore them down.”

This was Gudeman’s first union contract negotiation experience and she was surprised by how difficult it was to get the university to listen to the employees’ concerns and ideas. But she also realized how much support she and her co-workers have among faculty and staff.

AFSCME Local 1110, which represents building service, grounds keepers and food service, had their fellow AFSCME members’ backs. And the new graduate student union and non-tenure track faculty union joined in too. Out of the fight has sprung a new solidarity group on campus, which started meeting regularly before the pandemic hit and will continue to be champions for each other.

“I’ve never been involved in anything like this before,” Gudeman said. “It was exciting to see the grassroots efforts making a difference.”

The bargaining committee was led by AFSCME Council 31 Staff Representative Renee Nestler and President Marsha Perry, along with Juli Laird, Amanda Dingler, Pete Steadman, Bethany Martin and Gudeman. 

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