AFSCME continues protests during contract negotiations

Luke Taylor, Editor-in-Chief

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 981 has been continuing protests for higher wages and changes to their contracts for a full year.

AFSCME Local 981 represents building service workers, cooks, kitchen laborers, clerical workers and technical workers at Eastern.

Since last June, they have been employed without contract due to ongoing negotiations with the university.

Union members say they want to retain control over their schedules and to reject the university’s desire to abolish dining employees’ jobs through subcontracting.

Natalie Nagel, AFSCME Council 31’s staff representative, said that wage increase in the coming years is another concern.

“The administration] won’t even guarantee a one percent raise each year over the next three years,” Nagel said. “Those are the kinds of things that we can’t live with. We’re working hard to try to reach an agreement but they’re not hearing us very well in the room, so that’s why we’re protesting outside of the bargaining room too.”

Nagel said that clerical workers have additional concerns that their pay level is not sufficient for the level at which they are employed.

“Clerical folks in particular- the administration doesn’t have any sort of plan to really keep them above the minimum wage as the minimum wage increases a dollar every year,” Nagel said. “The only plan they’ve given us would keep the bottom third or half of them about 25 cents above the minimum wage each year, which is really not acceptable for professionals who are working full time.”

The union has held protests outside meetings of Eastern’s Board of Trustees throughout the 2020-21 school year, continuing into this summer.

AFSCME members have had multiple negotiation meetings with representatives from the university this month. On June 22, members of the union who were not part of those negotiations gathered outside of the meeting room and displayed posters listing the average wages of Eastern’s clerical and service workers and the wages of specific members of Eastern’s administration.

AFSCME found administration member wages on the Illinois Board of Higher Education website, which has a publicly available database for public university administrator and faculty salaries.

Nagel said that the organization got clerical, technical and service worker salaries through an information request to Eastern’s administration.

Clerical and technical workers’ average annual salary is $32,256 and service workers’ average salary is $36,649, according to AFSCME’s posters.

University president David Glassman’s base salary is $325,412, with additional compensation of $32,289.

Mark Hudson, director of housing and dining, has a base salary of $111,614.82.

Eastern’s general counsel, Laura McLaughlin, makes a base salary of $144,434.04.

Director of employee and lab relations Amie Calvert has an annual salary of $91,000.

Sean Reeder, vice president of business affairs, has a base salary of $178,500.

Timothy Zimmer, director of facilities planning and management has an annual salary of $112,215.08.

Legally, the previous contract for the clerical, technical and service workers must stay in place until a new contract is agreed upon. Members of AFSCME intend to continue negotiating until they are satisfied.

“We want a contract as soon as possible. We don’t think it should take a year to bargain a successive contract,” Nagel said. “But we’re willing to do whatever it takes to get a fair contract.”

AFSCME plans to protest outside Eastern’s Board of Trustees’ meeting in the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union on Friday at around 11:30 a.m. when the board members leave to go to lunch.

Luke Taylor can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]