SEIU ends strike with a solidarity rally, negotiations continuing

Negotiations between the Service Employees International Union Local 73 and the University will begin again Monday. The union ended its three-day strike Wednesday.

Campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler said she is optimistic about reaching a fair deal satisfying both parties. 

“We are confident that our offer to the union is fair, and we are confident that we can work with the mediator and the union to reach an agreement,” she said. 

But Ricky Baldwin, chief negotiator for the union, which represents about 800 University food and building service workers, said they deserve more wages than what the University offered last week. 

“We are in a good position to expect better from the University and we deserve it,” Baldwin said. “The work they do is essential, and they are very low paid.” 

The strike ended with a solidarity rally at the Illini Union. Speakers from other organizations, such as the Graduate Employees’ Organization and Campus Faculty Association, came to support a fair contract for union workers.  

Sarah Cassinelli, co-chair of the GEO, said the University needs to appreciate the union’s workers more. 

“I have to say that the fact that the SEIU members are forced on the picket line is a failure of a public institution,” Cassinelli said during the rally. “Workers on this campus are undervalued.”

Adam Rosen, SEIU communications director, said turnout on the picket lines in the past three days was better than expected.  

“We’ve been out here for almost 62 hours, and they won’t stop. It’s only getting stronger,” Rosen said around noon Wednesday. “We have less than 3 percent of the membership (that) has crossed the picket line, which is a great figure.”

The University had called in volunteers to fill in for the union members until Wednesday. 

Kaler said normal services were not influenced throughout the period and said she did not know of any complaints. 

“We’ve continued normal food service — all the hours and all the choices — throughout the strike,” Kaler said in an email. “We’ve been keeping paper towels and toilet paper supplied to restrooms, cleaned every restroom in the residence halls at least once every day and emptied garbage as quickly as possible.”

Carina can be reached at

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