April 14, 2022

ISU employees' union reaches tentative agreement, averting strike

On the verge of a strike, the AFSCME Local 1110 bargaining committee reached a tentative agreement with Illinois State University that advances the goals the union had been trying so hard to achieve at the bargaining table.

Instead of the planned strike, the union will now hold a ratification meeting. The parties have agreed not to release details to the public until they have been presented to the membership at the ratification meeting.

AFSCME Local 1110 represents more than 300 buildings, grounds and food services employees at Illinois State University. ISU students and faculty count on these workers to prepare food, wash dishes and floors, clean restrooms and classrooms, shovel snow, maintain the Quad and more.

The union contract expired last June. Despite having given out big raises and bonuses to upper management, wages for frontline employees are lower than comparable positions at other state universities and most other public sector employers in the area.

After more than 20 negotiating sessions over six months failed to produce sufficient progress, an overwhelming 96% of those voting said yes to authorize a strike. But the university still wouldn’t budge at the table. The bargaining committee had no choice but to file a strike notice with the state Educational Labor Relations Board on April 7.

On April 9, hundreds rallied and marched across campus in a strike countdown, calling for a fair contract.

“It is the fundamental moment that you have come to when you are prepared to stand up and say to this university, ‘see us,’” Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said of the strike vote when speaking to the crowd at the rally. “We are not going to go quietly into any dark night; we are going to stand up in the daylight.”

The last day of bargaining went on for more than seven hours before an agreement was reached. By the end of the day an exhausted but determined bargaining committee was finally able to shake hands with management across the table.

Led by Council 31 Staff Representative Renee Nestler and Regional Director Carla Gillespie, the committee included Local 1110 President Chuck Carver, Kevin Cagle, Jon Fears, Jeff Powell and Tia Reece.

“We are deeply appreciative of the outpouring of support that we received from students, faculty and members of other on-campus unions, which was so essential to our ability to achieve this agreement,” said Carver.

“I think we can call this a win for all AFSCME,” said Reece. “It really did take our whole union family and the village to get here.”

“The determination and unity of these dedicated ISU employees has resulted in a tentative agreement that will make ISU not only a good place to learn, but a better place to work,” Lynch said. “That’s the power of collective bargaining for the greater good.”

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