EIU-UPI calls for mediator in contract negotiations

Members+of+the+University+Professionals+of+Illinois+offer+encouragement+before+their+negotiation+team+meets+with+Eastern%E2%80%99s+administration+team+at+Booth+Library+Monday+afternoon.

Rob Le Cates

Members of the University Professionals of Illinois offer encouragement before their negotiation team meets with Eastern’s administration team at Booth Library Monday afternoon.

Madelyn Kidd, News Editor

Eastern offering contract proposals for faculty to work more at a lesser rate of pay has led to Eastern’s chapter of University Professionals of Illinois requesting a federal mediator for the nine-month long contract negotiation period, according to EIU-UPI’s press release on Thursday.

This follows after EIU-UPI delivered a grievance to University President David Glassman on Oct. 14 for the administration not bargaining in good faith.

EIU-UPI represents approximately 450 employees on campus including professors, academic advisors, annually contracted faculty, the tenured and tenure-track faculty and academic support professionals.

EIU-UPI have been in the negotiation process for a new four-year contract since March 21, and the last contract reached expiration on Aug. 31.

After 12 bargaining meetings, EIU-UPI have requested for a federal mediator after  Eastern administration has reached a stone wall neither bargaining team is willing to cross to accept the other’s proposals.

Jennifer Stringfellow, EIU-UPI’s chapter president and professor of special education, said Eastern’s proposals for the new contract have been unacceptable.

“Our negotiating team has endured 12 bargaining sessions and has yet to receive an acceptable offer from the university that addresses the challenges we’re facing right now,” Stringfellow said. “Our faculty and staff are stretched thin and still are asked to do more with less. The university refuses to address the workload issues we’re experiencing across this campus and instead is offering proposals that will only make them worse. This directly impacts our students by limiting the time we have to give them.”

The biggest battle for EIU-UPI has been receiving a pay increase to meet inflation rates.

Billy Hung, the lead negotiator on the EIU-UPI bargaining team and biology professor, said Eastern is looking to cut pay rather than increase it.

“It’s clear that we’re not going to get any further without bringing in a mediator,” said Hung. “The university stubbornly refuses to offer a real raise at a time when it’s harder than ever to stretch a dollar. And after accounting for inflation, the university’s last offer enforces an effective pay cut of nearly 13 percent for the first year alone. No workers should have to pay their employer in order to work.”

During the negotiations, EIU-UPI has pushed for a paid parental leave policy to be added.

Eastern’s current parental leave policy is for employees to work under the Family Medical Leave Act, a federal labor law requiring covered employers to allow employees to be able to leave from 12 to 26 weeks per year if qualified, and guarantee the employees still have their jobs when they return on unpaid leave.

To be eligible for FMLA, Eastern employees need to have been working at Eastern for at least 12 months and worked at least 1,250 hours of service during the 12 months.

It is currently required of Eastern employees to exhaust all paid leave before using FMLA. This includes all paid sick leave, paid accrued leave and compensatory time.

New employees would be required to work for several years to accrue enough days for paid parental leave without getting sick themselves under the current policy.

Potential and past employees have decided to work at other universities as a result, according to the press release.

EIU-UPI plans to attend the Board of Trustees’ meeting tomorrow to hand flyers to trustees as they enter the Tarble Arts Center for the meeting at 1 p.m. 

Stringfellow sent an email to all union members with the request to attend to hand out flyers at 12:45 p.m., and for members to wear their EIU-UPI shirts or the color green.

Stringfellow is hoping to have at least 25 people to be at the meeting.

Stringfellow previously attended and spoke during public comment at the last trustees meeting on Sept. 9.

There will also be a general membership meeting on Nov. 16 on Zoom at 4:30 p.m. The meeting will include updates on where negotiating is at currently and allow others to ask questions. Email Stringfellow for the Zoom link for the meeting.

 

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