SIU-Edwardsville brass accepts raise but denies it to union workers

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FAILING GRADE: Administrators at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville recently received a four percent raise after going three or more years without one, but they are denying raises to union-represented employees who have gone just as long without an increase.

By CARL GREEN
Illinois Correspondent

Edwardsville, IL – Southern Illinois University Edwardsville administrators have received a four percent raise this fall to make up for going three or more years without raises.

But they are denying the same raise to union-represented employees even though the workers didn’t get raises in those years either.

Campus union leaders are crying foul and seeking help from the state legislature.

For the union members to get their raise, the university is demanding major concessions, such as giving up about 10 percent of eligible faculty members. Another is giving up the right to strike if contract negotiations reach impasse. Union leaders say the concessions are way out of proportion to what the raises are worth.

Meanwhile, non-represented employees are already getting the raise, which SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook announced in September as a way to make up for the years without raises.

“That’s the rub – that other people are getting the raises,” said Cathy Daus, an officer and negotiator for the Faculty Association, an affiliate of the Illinois Education Association that represents more than 400 faculty members and is now negotiating its first contract. “It’s a cost-of-living adjustment for work that we’ve already done, before the union was even in existence.

“The administrators had to give up nothing to get their own raises, and the other groups that are not represented by unions didn’t have to give up anything to get their raises.”

ATTACK ON WORKERS

Faculty Association President Kim Archer, in her newsletter column, said “Association officers have been told by upper administration that the university expects to ‘win’ more in concessions than the value of the raise itself, if they are going to give this raise at all – something promised to us more than a year ago, and which has already been approved and encumbered by the Board of Trustees.

“This is standard corporate action against workers and unions – just as the administration’s giving itself a raise with nothing further required.”

The faculty union offered to forego additional raises for the two years covered by the four percent raise plan in exchange for receiving the approved raises, but that was rejected by the university, Archer said.

The university has about 20 bargaining units, representing about 80 percent all SIUE employees, that are affected in varying ways. A few have contracts in force with language that assures they get the raise. But more either don’t have that contract clause or are in negotiations on a new contract.

Union members met with State Representative Katie Stuart last week to ask for her assistance, and she was sympathetic.

“You’ve stuck with it through the hard times,” she told the workers. “You shouldn’t then be more unfairly burdened with something that’s not treating everyone on the same level.”

Dave Vitoff, organizer for the Illinois Education Association, noted that the SIUE unions were visibly active earlier this year in campaigning for the Legislature to override budget vetoes by Governor Bruce Rauner, making the raises possible.

“We helped break that budget impasse,” he told Stuart. “It’s a very small price to pay. It’s not a lot of people to give four percent.”

UNION-BUSTING

Archer noted that legislation is pending that could lead to consolidating state universities, which she said looms as a threat while contract negotiations continue for many of the bargaining units at SIUE. Some of the negotiations have been going on for two years already.

“If the university is holding up this raise and keeping us in an open contract (not settled), and legislation were to go through to consolidate the universities, it would be very easy to fire faculty, fire staff, fire grounds workers, fire custodians,” she said. “If we have an open contract, we don’t have the protection of a closed contract.

“The two things sort of make a perfect storm. We’re demoralized, we’re angry and we’re frustrated, and we’re looking for any kind of help. It looks like union-busting from our perspective.”

She said university negotiators have made it clear they want to get rid of all unions representing university employees.

“What the chancellor told us behind closed doors is that the university is more interested in leveraging concessions from its employees than in helping us. That’s kind of hard, as an employee, to hear that,” she said.

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