The Board of Trustees could see the 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 protesting through two small windows during their meeting April 23.
AFSCME met during the Board’s meeting to protest for a contract they say is fair for the work they have done during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The protest was third protest the union has held during its negotiations with the university for their next contract. They have been negotiating since June.
Union members say they want a fair wage increase, to retain control over their schedules and to reject the university’s desire to abolish dining employees’ jobs through subcontracting.
Lynn Griesemer, office manager for the Department of Academic Advising, said it is important that the union stays in the university’s sight.
“I think it’s important for us to keep ourselves visible because I sometimes feel like we are in invisible to them,” Griesemer said. “I think it’s easy to forget the struggles that some people have that maybe don’t make as much money.”
Griesemer said many members of the union face struggles when paying their bills and have to put off bills or wonder if they will be able to make payments.
She added as an Eastern graduate, the university’s response is disheartening.
“A lot of us graduated from here so it’s kind of hard to be mistreated by the very place you got your degree and that’s sad, that’s sad to me anyways,” Griesemer said.
A member of the union who wished to remain anonymous, said they believe the university does not value the work of those in the union, specifically those in their field.
“My experience is that they don’t value the clerical staff on campus. We are in the offices day in, day out, we work all year long, we don’t get off in the summer or any of the student vacations,” they said. “We’re here doing the day in and day out work and it’s almost like they don’t know what we do, we’re not valued for what we do, we’re not paid for our value and we haven’t been paid for many, many years.”
They added that they feel the university should shift its priorities.
“Many of us have worked here for years and years and years and years, long term employees and still not making much above minimum wage and I think that says a lot about administration,” the union member said. “They always seem to get raises, they always seem to get additional compensation, it never seems to be a problem for them to find their salary increases because they get it first and it’s like we’re left with nothing at the end, they always say they don’t have anything left to give us. Well maybe the priority should change and maybe they should think about us first just once in awhile and pay us what we deserve.”
Union members are not the only ones who feel they deserve the contract they are seeking. Coles County Democrats President Mac White joined the union members to protest.
During the union’s protest March 30, White attended and said the workers deserve fair compensation.
“These people have worked really, really hard since the pandemic hit and they are not being compensated for all of this extra hard work that they’re doing and it’s time that they get compensated and everybody needs to help them,” White said.
Corryn Brock can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]