AFSCME contract negotiations continue

Corryn Brock, News Editor

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 981, the union representing Eastern’s building service workers, cooks, kitchen laborers, clerical workers and technical workers, continued conversations with the university regarding the contracts of union members. 

The members say all they want is a fair contract, however, they are not receiving it.

The main concerns on most members’ minds are a wage increase, control over their schedules and to not allow subcontracting for tasks done in their positions.

Natalie Nagel, staff representative for AFSCME Council #31, said after the work they put in during the pandemic, the members deserve to be treated with fairness.

“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.”

AFSCME Vice President Derek Light served as the union’s president when several layoffs took place due to a state budget impasse. He said while he understood the need for no wage increases at that time, there is no need to not give the members an increase now.

“Our raises are not keeping up with the cost of living so we’re actually making less money every single year,” Light said.

He added that the union is not expecting a major increase.

“We don’t want to be millionaires, we’re janitors, we’re BSWs. We understand that, but we’re also the ones the students get to know, our union not only has the BSWs,” Light said. “We have the food service workers, the secretaries, the ones who if you have a problem that’s who you go to… we’re not asking for a lot. Basically we just want to be treated fairly.”

Robert Wells, a union member, said he is frustrated with the current negotiations after the sacrifices his union made during the budget impasse.

“We made a lot of concessions on our last contract understanding that we were in a budget crisis,” Wells said. There were a lot of layoffs in 2016 and we accepted that and we all took on more responsibilities, we have a lot bigger areas because we were cut in almost half.”

Michael Ratliff was one of the many members standing outside of the ballroom Thursday to show he stood with his union. He came after working through the night and getting off at 5:30 a.m.

“We’ve got to show strength, we’ve got to let them know we’re the ones doing the cleaning and take care of this campus. We want to make sure we’re heard,” Ratliff said.

Ratliff compared the situation to the union members being treated as outsiders.

“We’re like the black sheep of the family here, all we’re wanting to do is just fit in and take care of the campus, take care of the student here, take care of the university the way it needs to be taken care of,” Ratliff said. “We’re understaffed but we’re doing our best to make sure the place looks like and is representable to the people and the student. All we’re asking is to give us a fair shake.”


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