Here we go again. It seems that people don’t get results on this campus until they are forced to threaten to strike. It’s actually quite ridiculous, but more so annoying.
On last Wednesday, I was wandering out of Allen Hall after lunch when I was approached by students trying to explain the current problem of the Service Employees International Union Local 73. They invited me to a meeting that would be held that Saturday. Representatives and University employees of the SEIU would be there to discuss their current dilemma and how students could help.
As a journalist and a concerned resident of University Housing, I made it my mission to go to this meeting. I was also shocked that only three students set out with the same intentions.
Not only did I meet Paula and David Goodwin, a lovely couple trying to make an honest living, I met two Facilities and Services workers who care about and love the students of this university. They take pride in their contribution to the campus’ successful operation.
And they should. This campus wouldn’t work as smoothly without them. Think about it.
It is truly the Building Service workers, Food and Service workers and the workers of Facilities and Services that make this University go ’round. Eight hundred SEIU members cook the food we eat, clean the halls we live in and shovel the snow that often plagues us. Their duties are not limited to this short list, and most times they go above and beyond; but for whatever reason, they can’t seem to receive a fair contract.
Currently, the University is offering to place the SEIU back on the Campus Wage Program after they decided to leave in the 2010-11 school year. The program provides “a flat rate percentage increase,” in order to compensate for inflation. However, the past has shown the program to be unstable. The SEIU was placed on the campus wage program in the 2008-09 school year and also received a raise. The following year, the SEIU did not receive a raise and, as a result, decided to leave the program during the 2010-11 year. In the 2011-12 academic year, the SEIU had already left the program, but still received the salary increase because it was higher than the SEIU negotiated base rate.
The Daily Illini reported earlier this month that the union left the campus wage program to better negotiate a higher wage for union workers. They would opt for a base rate percentage increase. Whichever was higher at the time — the campus wage or the base rate — would be the one they would choose.
Ricky Baldwin, chief negotiator for Local 73, said earlier this month to The Daily Illini that the campus wage program continues to be a problem because of the rising costs in health care, pension costs and uncertainty as past incidents have shown.
This reminds me of the Goodwins, who dedicate their lives to this University. Paula Goodwin mentioned that even through the salary increase, she managed to bring home $2,000 less in earnings after the benefit and tax deductions. They have to choose their vacation and sick days wisely and can only work full time during the academic year.
And though the school year ends, workers still have to make ends meet. However, Mrs. Goodwin mentioned that many employers refrain from hiring temporary University employees during the summer.
The Goodwins also mentioned that the University tends to pay 20 percent more to private contractors for the same work they do.
And often times they have to redo that work.
It seems that it would be a no brainer for the University to offer a proposal that is decent and fair. These employees have earned it. They sure have made my college life easier. Having the luxury of someone cooking for me, cleaning my bathroom, shoveling walkways is something that I appreciate.
And not only do they do all of this, they do it with it a smile.
The SEIU have filed its intent to strike, but it honestly shouldn’t have to go that far.
The University should immediately offer these workers a fair and livable contract. If they worked as hard at negotiating fair contracts with their lower-level employees, they wouldn’t always be faced with their employees striking back. They also wouldn’t have to learn the same lesson repeatedly. It’s time for this University to pass the test.
Ta’les is a senior in Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.