AFSCME stuggles to reach contract common ground

Corryn Brock, News Editor

The union serving Eastern’s building service workers, cooks, kitchen laborers, clerical workers and technical workers are fighting for a contract they say is only fair.

According to the webpage for the union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 981, “AFSCME organizes for social and economic justice in the workplace and through political action and legislative advocacy.”

Currently, some members of the union have been without contract since June after months of negotiating with the university. They are working under the terms of the previously voted on contract.

One issue the service workers in the union are facing in their bargaining is retaining rights given in the previously voted on contract, like the ability to choose a work schedule or an assurance that the university cannot subcontract workers for positions that would typically be filled by union members.

When it comes to scheduling, Natalie Nagel, staff representative for AFSCME Council #31, said having control over the schedules they work gives those in the union more security in their lives.

“It causes a lot of problems because people have a life outside of work, Nagel said. They have childcare, other family responsibilities, some people might have a second job because their wages are low here and so not having that stability of knowing when you’re going to work can cause a lot of stress.”

Nagel says the management over those positions would like to have control over scheduling.

Subcontracting is another concern the union has. They say not only do they fear for job security with the potential to subcontract work, but they also worry for students.

Some service workers say they worry that subcontracted workers could bring in safety issues for students or potentially issues of theft.

Thursday the bargaining will continue along with the support of the University Professionals of Illinois.

The meeting will be in the Grand Ballroom of the Martin Luther King, Jr. University Union and begin at 9 a.m. Members of UPI are encouraged to have a presence outside of the ballroom starting at 9:10 a.m. to show their solidarity with the members of AFSCME.

Nagel says supporting the members of AFSCME is the least people can do after their work during the pandemic.

“They have worked through the whole pandemic and they are the reason that Eastern can be open this Fall and this Spring. They are doing the disinfecting, they spent the summer getting housing units ready for students when they had to isolate. The clericals spent hours and hours and days and days converting classes to online formats and making sure that students were registered correctly,” Nagel said. “It’s been a hard year and they’ve worked really hard to make sure that this school year could happen and I really think they deserve credit. They’re not asking for anything astronomical, they just want to be treated fairly and with respect.”


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