Strikes loom on three Illinois college campuses
Faculty and staff at three public universities in the state given the go ahead for work stoppages as contract negotiations have failed to result in an agreement. The cloud of uncertainty threatens to disrupt classrooms with just a few weeks to go in the spring semester.
The unions have been without contracts since last summer.
The latest action involves Governors State University in University Park. According to the union, 97% of members voting agreed to strike if a deal can’t be reached. A 10 day strike authorization has also been filed, meaning the earliest a walk out could occur is April 7.
Another negotiating session is planned for March 30. The sticking points are similar at all three campuses, including compensation and workload. At GSU, some academic advisors have had as many as 500 student advisees. According a union news release “The advisors cannot possibly give students the support that they need with that kind of workload.”
Strikes could inching closer at Chicago State University and Eastern Illinois University as well.
The union at Chicago State represents about 160 faculty, lecturers, academic support professionals, and technical support staff. A recent strike authorization vote had 98% support of members. A notice has been filed that a strike could happen as early as April 3.
"A strike is always a last resort, but CSU administration has pushed us to that point,” said Dr. Valerie Goss, president of the CSU UPI chapter and associate chemistry professor. “We have been meeting for nearly one year, yet CSU administration still hasn’t once come to the table with a viable offer. We will continue to demand the support we need to give our students the education they deserve.”
The administration at Chicago State issued the following statement:
Chicago State University (CSU) met with UPI Local 4100 (Union) well into the evening on March 27. As a result of how far apart CSU and the Union were on many economic issues, and to avoid a strike, CSU proposed that the parties submit the unresolved issues to interest arbitration. Interest arbitration would allow both sides to put their positions before an impartial third-party arbitrator for resolution, preventing an unnecessary strike, and allowing students to complete the semester without disruption. The Union rejected this proposal in a matter of minutes.
CSU also presented Union representatives with a revised economic proposal for consideration, and the Union responded with an economic offer of its own - the first on-the-record economic proposal made by the Union since December 2022. The parties made progress reaching tentative agreements on several outstanding issues.
Another mediation session is scheduled for Thursday, March 30. CSU does not want a strike to occur. No one wins during a strike – not the faculty, not the university, and certainly not the students. We are committed to negotiating a fair contract that recognizes the dedication and needs of our faculty while ensuring CSU's long-term financial health and the continued provision of the high-quality educational services our students deserve.
At Eastern Illinois University, a walk out could occur April 6. “We’ve reached a point with this administration where it’s getting more and more difficult to see a path forward at the table," said Jennifer Stringfellow, president of EIU UPI and a special education professor.
The union said the university administration is proposing a pay cut for faculty and staff. Last fall, the union filed a grievance arguing the university was not bargaining in good faith.
Despite a federal mediator's involvement since November, the two sides have yet to resolve the contract dispute. Negotiating sessions are planned leading up the strike date.
Ahead of a possible strike on the Charleston campus, union members plan a “Teach-In” for students on Tuesday to share the status of negotiations and explain how a potential strike would affect their classes and coursework.