Eastern unions push for health and safety measures

Corryn Brock, News Editor

Two Eastern unions are urging Eastern to “put the safety of students, employees and the community first” as the university opens this semester.  

The two unions, AFSCME Local 981, which represents building service, clerical, technical and food service workersand University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100’s Eastern chapter which represents faculty and academic support professionals, are contacting Eastern after the university’s administration ordered clerical and technical employees back to campus after months of successful work from home. 

According to a press release the unions are looking for three keys things. 

First, the unions would like anyone who can complete their work from home to be able to do so, citing that the Charleston and Mattoon school districts have moved to remote classes so parents may need to stay home to care for their children and that working remotely will minimize contact with others. 

“EIU’s vague ‘flex time’ policy doesn’t meet the needs of working parents trying to navigate a global pandemic,” said Kim Turner, an office manager in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the recording secretary of AFSCME Local 981. “University administration should see remote work as a win-win for employees and EIU, but instead they want to force us to use family leave. We just want to be able to work in a manner that keeps ourselves and our families safe.” 

The union is also asking that the building service workers see a staffing increase, noting that the staff saw a major decrease during the budget impasse. 

“The staffing level of building service workers—who have the monumental responsibility of cleaning the entire campus—has never recovered from the hundreds of layoffs at EIU in 2016. This fall’s small dedicated disinfecting crew is only available overnight, and Eastern’s plan for dealing with disinfection during the day falls short,” according to the press release. “Rather than hire sufficient building service workers to provide for additional disinfection of campus housing and dining, the administration chose to hire more managers who won’t perform any cleaning tasks.” 

“Well I think ultimately if it’s about health and safety not just for our members but for students, for the rest of the campus community and for the Charleston community,” AFSCME Council 31 staff representative Natalie Nagel said. You know we really want everyone to be as safe and healthy as possible and not just the people we represent but their families and the rest of the people at Eastern and surrounding town.” 

The final request from the unions is that Eastern be more transparent with the number of positive cases in the campus community and the location of hotspots. 

Currently UPI has reached tentative agreement with the university and will be voting the proposed memorandum of agreement. 

Members of the union will be able to follow the policies in the agreement while voting is in progress 

Voting ends Monday and is being done electronically. 

Members of AFCSME have not seen the same results, as of Friday the union had not heard from the university on any of their requests. 

Though UPI has reached a tentative agreement, the union’s president Jeannie Ludlow said she felt it was important for UPI to stand with AFSCME.  

“Our saying that we are in solidarity with them does not mean that we are ungrateful for what we were able to get, we’re just really sorry that EIU isn’t treating all of its employees the same,” Ludlow said. “So we wanted to stand in solidarity with AFCSME and what they are asking for … their lives are as valuable as mine, their health is as valuable as mine.” 

For Nagel the solution is simple, common sense policies. 

“We’ve tried to work with the EIU administration to protect employees, students and the community, but the answer to our proposals has consistently been ‘No’,” AFSCME Council 31 staff representative Natalie Nagel said. “EIU claims it treats employees like family. So why aren’t they enacting common-sense health and safety protocols?” 


Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]