SIUE workers represented by ASFCME Council 31 and Labor allies rally for fair contract

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University employees have gone without a contract for nearly 600 days

FAIR CONTRACT NOW – About 75 SIUE support and building service workers represented by AFSCME Council 31 showed up in force last week at the university’s Board of Trustees meeting at the Morris University Center to demand a fair contract after nearly two years without one. – Labor Tribune photo

By SHERI GASSAWAY
Assistant Editor

Edwardsville, IL – SIUE support and building service workers represented by AFSCME Council 31 showed up in force last week at the university’s Board of Trustees meeting to demand a fair contract after nearly two years without one.

About 75 AFSCME members showed up at the Feb. 8 board meeting armed with signs and banners to drive home the fact that they have been working without a contract for nearly 600 days. They were joined by Labor allies, including the Illinois AFL-CIO, the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council and the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor.

Tim Drea, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, told board members his organization represents some 750,000 workers across Illinois. He said to his knowledge, there is not one collective bargaining agreement in the state that’s gone that long without a resolution.

‘TIRED OF THE DISRESPECT’
“I’m here to tell the administration that you cannot succeed in teaching leaders of tomorrow by stepping on the backs of the workers you employ,” Drea said. “We are tired of the disrespect and tired of being viewed as expendable. We’re tired of excuses and delays. We want a fair contract now.”

Scot Luchtefeld, president of the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council, said there was a time when a job at SIUE was a solid opportunity. Now, he said, “all you hear about is chronic understaffing and minimum wage jobs.

‘I USED TO BELIEVE IN SIUE’
“Perhaps most troubling, I used to believe in SIUE, but this situation makes me question that,” Luchtefeld said to the board. “Your own staff senate has questioned the motives and the resolve of this administration and has asked you to resolve this and all other outstanding Labor contracts by Feb. 29.”

After the public portion of the meeting, Board Chairman J. Phil Gilbert thanked the speakers and said he thought there was a meeting coming up in the following week in which “we hope” to have a resolution. That “hope” comment drew a groan from the crowd.

‘THRIVING WAGE’
Meanwhile, Victor Ludwig, a student trustee, sided with the workers.

“Only a thriving wage will solve this problem for our union workers on campus,” Ludwig said. “I very much hope that we can come up with a resolution that’s advantageous to our workers that expands their ability to provide for themselves and continue to serve our institution.”

Local 31 Regional Director Eddie Caumiante rallied the members prior to the meeting. He said the Feb. 8 day of action was primarily focused on about 200 support service or clerical personal and about 100 building service employees. He added that there are four other bargaining units also without a contract.

‘ABSURD SITUATION’
“We have come here to speak to the board and have done so many times and nothing has penetrated it,” he explained. “It is an absurd situation. We are still fighting to get over two percent in an offer on a contract that’s been languishing for almost a year and a half.”

Cheryl Jordan, an office administrator for the college, told the Labor Tribune she and her co-workers have have not had a wage increase for three years.

‘CAN’T SUSTAIN IT ANYMORE’
“With the cost of literally everything going up, we can’t sustain it anymore,” Jordan said. “And they are continuing to increase insurance costs and copays so essentially we’re making less than we did three years ago.”

Later during the day, members rallied in demand for a fair contract at an SIUE chancellor’s meet and greet at Chase Park Plaza.

SIGN THE PETITION
You can help by signing an online petition supporting the workers at actionnetwork.org/petitions/add-your-name-fair-contract-for-siue-employees.


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