EIU-UPI speaks at BOT meeting: ‘Cost of labor is whatever workers are willing to accept in exchange for our work’


Ashanti Thomas

Christopher Gadomski, a member of Eastern Illinois University’s University of Professionals Illinois, sits at the Board of Trustees meeting along with other members in the Grand Ballroom of Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.

Madelyn Kidd, Editor-in-Chief

EIU-UPI gave an update on the ongoing negotiations with Eastern’s administration as Teamsters Local #24 had a contractual agreement approved at the Board of Trustees meeting Friday.

Eastern’s chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois 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 negotiating for a new contract since March 21, 2022. 

During the public comment section of the Board meeting Friday, Billy Hung, EIU-UPI’s lead negotiator and professor of biological sciences, provided the Board with updates on the negotiation process.

“In these last 10 months, the two teams have met 15 times, with the last two times having a mediator,” Hung said. “The teams requested a mediator because they were unable to make significant progress on a few issues.”

Members of Eastern Illinois University’s of University of Professionals Illinois attend the Board of Trustees meeting in the Grand Ballroom of Martin Luther King Jr. University Union. (Ashanti Thomas)

At this point, many terms have reached an agreement between EIU-UPI’s and Eastern’s administrative negotiation teams. However, Hung says the remaining issue is on the financial compensation provisions.

“The union’s decision on the matter is that our members did not take the effective pay price in order to remain employees,” Hung said. “Our wages have slacked behind the inflation over the past two contracts creating a 6 percent wage gap between the received pay adjustments and the rise in the cost of living. In addition, we are currently facing significant inflation rates that will impact the effective wage in the immediate future.”

Hung said while EIU-UPI understands financial constraints, the union is still only asking for what is fair compared to the cost of living.

“We understand the financial constraints of our school,” Hung said. “How can we not, when we live with the consequences of that every day at work, ranging from an increased amount of overload that our faculty carry out due to a shortage of the staff level on our campus that makes for unofficial work duties resulting from an adequate level of protocol and support on our campus. Nevertheless, our school cannot expect to continue to balance its budget on the backs of its workers- both UPI and non-UPI. But the cost of labor is not whatever the administration team has left over in the budget to assign to workers. The cost of labor is whatever workers are willing to accept in exchange for our work.”

illy Hung, the lead negotiator for Eastern Illinois University’s University of Professionals Illinois, speaks at the Board of Trustees meeting to address things that have went successfully for UPI but also addressed continous concerns about wages in the Grand Ballroom of Martin Luther King Jr. University Union. (Ashanti Thomas)

Hung said he hopes the Board “will spend some time considering the proper balance needed to achieve responsible financial stewardship as well as their wages and increases to recognize how important the workers are for the school’s mission.”

Prior to Hung speaking, the Board approved another union’s contractual agreement.

The Board unanimously approved a contractual agreement with Teamsters Local #26.

Teamsters Local #26 represents Eastern’s grounds workers, grounds gardeners, maintenance equipment operators and tree surgeons. 

A tentative agreement was reached between Eastern’s administration and the union on Nov. 21 to renew a successor contract for the next three fiscal years through July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2025.

The agreement was ratified by Teamsters on Jan. 4.

Teamsters, made of approximately 11 members, agreed to a raise for covered members for 3.25% for fiscal year 2023, a raise of 2 percent in fiscal year 2024 and an additional 2 percent raise for fiscal year 2025.

The raises are estimated to cost the university $35,314.50 throughout the agreement time frame.

The successor agreement was approved to begin by the Board in the April 22, 2021 Board meeting.


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