Eastern Illinois University faculty union go on strike
Eastern Illinois University faculty and staff went on strike Thursday. The union representing those workers, EIU University Professionals of Illinois, said the walkout decision came after an eight-hour bargaining session this week that failed to produce a compromise.
The union at the Charleston campus said the administration walked away from the bargaining table after offering what is effectively a pay cut. It said compensation and workload remain the key issues.
“I am disappointed by the administration’s decision to stop the process (Tuesday), said Billy Hung, the union’s lead negotiator. “We managed to narrow our differences down to less than $900,000 per year over the length of the contract. On top of beginning the year with $15.4 million dollars in surplus, EIU is slated to receive over $3 million in additional funding from our state next year. Yet, they refused to find a compromise to close the gap and offer a fair contract.”
After a strike authorization was approved last month, the administration issued a statement saying the union proposal would cost the university $10 million over the contract’s four-year term.
The university cited the unclear future of international student enrollment as well as state budgeting to explain their inability to meet the union’s demands.
“Given this uncertainty and the forecasted demographic cliff facing all universities, the University needs to continue to be focused on financial stability,” the statement read.
The administration said steps are being taken to ensure that students can finish the semester and graduate on time, despite the strike.
The union has been without a contract since last summer. Bargaining has been taking place for over a year.
“We are still very far apart on key financial issues, including wage adjustment to catch up on lost wages and adjusting minimum salary so that no faculty teaching at EIU would make less than minimum wage. We offered to meet again today before our membership meeting, but administration refused to schedule another session to avert a strike, said EIU UPI President Jennifer Stringfellow. The planned work stoppage follows a strike earlier this week on the Chicago State University campus. Governors State University faculty and staff have also approved a strike authorization for this month.
The University Professionals of Illinois President and Illinois Federation of Teachers Vice President of Higher Education John Miller called it a pattern of administrations refusing to make needed investments.
“We will stand strong on every campus so that students at Illinois public universities get the education they deserve. We must hold these institutions accountable to the fact that investing in our faculty and staff is a direct investment in students, and it will only strengthen EIU’s future as a high-quality institution of higher education and an economic engine in this rural community.” The next bargaining session at Eastern Illinois University is set for Friday morning.
(Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report)