‘What we’re fighting for is you’: EIU-UPI holds Teach Out amidst negotiations


Ashanti Thomas

Jeannie Ludlow, professor of English and director of women’s gender, and sexuality studies, and Jennifer Stevens, the associate professor of sociology and criminology, listen to faculty speak to their audience as the Teach Out ends on the Library Quad Thursday afternoon.

Madelyn Kidd, News Editor

“You put ‘All In’ on a billboard; we’re the ones who have the daily responsibility,” Jennifer Stringfellow, the president of Eastern’s chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois and associate professor of special education, said at an EIU-UPI event on Thursday.

The University Professionals of Illinois, EIU-UPI, held a Teach Out on Thursday at the Mellin Steps with guest speakers to talk about the topic of labor. 

Currently, the EIU-UPI has been working without a contract since Aug. 31, over five months since negotiations began March 21.

The guest speakers to speak about the ongoing issues and history of unions and labor laws included: Assistant Professor of history Camden Burd, Assistant Professor of history Alonzo Ward, Assistant Professor of educational leadership Carole Collins-Ayanlaja, Associate Professor of sociology, criminology and anthropology Angela Glaros, Assistant Professor of special education Jennifer Buchter, Faculty Assistant of Student Publications Betsy Jewell and John Miller, the president of the University Professionals of Illinois Union.

Jeannie Ludlow, chair of the organizing committee for EIU-UPI and an English professor, said the Teach Out was for the students to learn about the history of Labor Day and about the ongoing EIU-UPI contract negotiations.

“So it all kind of started because I mentioned Labor Day, and my students didn’t know why we had Labor Day and what it was for,” Ludlow said. “And I thought, we don’t talk about that very much… And it just so happens that we are in this negotiation process. Labor Day came right after our contract expired, so here we are in a situation where we’re supposed to be teachers. We are fighting for our students’ learning conditions. My work conditions are your learning conditions. So we were fighting for that, and we had this great opportunity to raise awareness about what Labor Day is all about.”

Stringfellow said the EIU-UPI is currently working without a contract, and the union members want to feel appreciated by the administration.

“We want to be treated with the dignity, the respect and the value to this university that we represent,” Stringfellow said. “And we don’t feel like we are right now. And so right now we’re working without a contract. So if I had to say one thing we actually want a contract, but that’s going to take a while to get to that. And that’s going to take some movement, I fear, on the part of the administration because what they’re presenting does not even keep up with the cost of living.”

Stringfellow said the Teach Out was to allow students to hear what is going on.

“We want you to be aware that we are currently working without a contract,” Stringfellow said. “We want you to be aware that the bargaining sessions are not going as smoothly as we would have liked them to because we thought we were being really reasonable. And we are at such an impasse that I don’t know how we get closer to a middle. And we need you all to know that.”

Stringfellow said the faculty within EIU-UPI play a bigger part in bringing and keeping students at Eastern than administration does.

“If you were [at Eastern], we’re the ones that make the recruiting techniques, the marketing slogans, we make them real,” Stringfellow said. “You put ‘All In’ on a billboard. We’re the ones who have the daily responsibility, but also the daily opportunity to interact with students in all kinds of capacities at all kinds of levels.”

Ludlow said she feels the administration is not seeing the issue at the level as those in EIU-UPI.

“I wish that administration saw this the way we see it,” Ludlow said. “I wish they saw the way we see it. That what we’re fighting for is you, and I don’t think they do see that. And that makes me sad.”

As president of the entire UPI Union, Miller said students should remain aware of what is happening with union contracts on their campus.

“I would encourage folks to get involved to pay attention to what’s happening in the contracts,” Miller said. “These are your teachers. They’re the advisors, the staff that have been impacted by this. And we want to make sure that they’re at the institution; invest in the classrooms and invest within our advisors, invest in our student services, so that we are able to continue to provide the quality of education that you all deserve.”

Stringfellow said this is not the first time the Eastern administration or administrations at other Illinois universities have had extended negotiations with unions.

“We’re not the only ones being treated that way by any stretch, not the UPI at other places but also not the only union on this campus,” Stringfellow said. “That has been and continues to be treated this way. If you want us to do this work, you need to respect the work that we do. And not just by a mouthpiece and not just by sometimes hanging out with students. We need you to respect us daily and the way that you show that and the way that you show you value us is honestly and truly in salary.”

Ludlow said something students could do to help show support for their professors, advisors, and other faculty on campus is by displaying signs.

“So we have signs that say, ‘Students Stand with EIU-UPI,’” Ludlow said. “If folks would be willing to take signs and put them, if they live on or near campus, in their windows or in their car or something like that. We will get them signs. All they have to do is reach out, and they can call me and I’ll make sure they get signs.”

Ludlow also cautioned what others might hear about EIU-UPI and to keep an open mind as negotiations continue.

“But also just to kind of be aware as the stories come out about our negotiation… The messaging from administration is that we’re slackers,” Ludlow said. “Your faculty and your advisors are slackers. We don’t want to work any harder than we already do. And that we’re being selfish about money. And it’s not actually that way. We’re not slackers; we work pretty hard. And we work that hard because we care about our students. But also, we haven’t had an effective raise for many years. And we want people who are also good professors to come here and work. People who are fabulous advisors to want to come to Eastern and work, and we can’t have that if you don’t have competitive salaries.”

Stringfellow said that the Teach Out was not intended to persuade students to support EIU-UPI, but to educate students on what is happening, so they can make educated choices and to do what students feel is right in this situation.

“We know because we work with you every day, that you can be a really, really strong voice,” Stringfellow said. “Some of you also in different ways have interactions with administration, particularly the president and the provost and all and so if we can, we don’t want to tell you how to think that was not the point of today… We wanted to let students know this is what’s happening right here on this campus with labor on this campus because we know that you all will take that to heart. And whatever decision you make will at least be an informed decision. And that’s what we want you to do. That’s how we teach you all the time. We’re not trying to tell you what to think. We want you to think about all of this and make your own conclusions.”


Madelyn Kidd can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].