AFSCME continue protests for contract

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez, Associate News Editor

The union representing Eastern clerical, dining and building service workers picketed over contract negotiations on Thursday, August 18.

As students moved in for a new academic year, the workers stood at 4th and Lincoln with posters in hand.

The union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 981 (AFSCME), has been in contract negotiations with university administration for over a year.

Natalie Nagel, an AFSCME representative, has been helping Eastern employees negotiate their contracts with the university, hoping to help them receive a wage increase.

“No one is expecting to make $90,000 in their jobs on campus, but they want something that is fair,” Nagel said. “The administrators have been giving themselves large wage increases, and [Eastern employees] want something that’s fair and that can keep up with the cost of living.”

She said that though some progress has been made in helping Eastern employees receive fair wages, it has been hard bargaining with the university.

“Their health insurance premiums have gone up, but the cost of groceries, gas, all of that has gone up, and many of our members are taking home less money today than they were ten years ago working the same job at Eastern,” Nagel said.

Jennie Thompson, a BSW at Eastern, has been a part of the university for years. Due to job cuts, Thompson has had to do more work for less, which only became more frustrating when COVID-19 hit.

“We were here during Covid when most people got to work from home,” Thompson said. “We didn’t. We were here making this campus function. We never got thanked or compensated in any way whatsoever.”

Wendy Lane, an office manager in the Department of Counseling and Higher Education, has been working with the university for over twenty years.

“A lot of our union members have fantastic relationships with our students and they are family to us,” Lane said. “I’ve worked at other departments on campus in the past twenty-some years I’ve been affiliated with Eastern. I still keep in contact with students who graduated seven, eight, nine years ago.”

Eastern employees say that they want to be compensated for all the work that they do to keep Eastern running, especially for getting the university through the pandemic.

“BSWs, clerical, technical and dining are the backbone of the university,” Thompson said. “Management needs to realize that and things need to change.”

Kyara Morales-Rodriguez can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]