EDITORIAL: Union members need to vote to strike

Editorial Board

Members of Eastern’s chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois will be voting on if the union should go on strike on Wednesday and Thursday following almost a year-long negotiation period for a new contract. (Ashanti Thomas)

EIU-UPI will vote on the ability to strike Wednesday and Thursday and we at The News encourage members to vote both in general and in favor of the strike.

Eastern’s chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois, EIU-UPI, is voting to hopefully invoke action and have the administration budge on its side of negotiations after nearly a year of unideal offers. 

EIU-UPI represents Eastern faculty which are tenured or tenure-track, referred to as Unit A, and annually contracted faculty and academic support professionals, referred to as Unit B. 

EIU-UPI have been negotiating with Eastern’s administration negotiation team since March 21, 2022 for the Unit A and Unit B’s new four-year contract. The last contract ended Aug. 31 leaving the union working without a new contract.

Since beginning negotiations last March, several agreements have been reached between EIU-UPI and Eastern’s administration. However, a large one left is yearly salary increases for the next four years.

The cost of living adjustment is a factor EIU-UPI have been fighting for to establish a larger salary raise to allow Eastern faculty to make a livable wage.

The median household income for Illinois, from the most recent form the U.S. Census Bureau, is $72,563. In Coles County it is $48,534, and in Champaign County, $56,939.

Some of the lowest paid figures are from annually contracted faculty, paid per nine months, and academic support professionals, paid per 12 months, making around $30,000 to $37,500. The lowest paid Unit A faculty member is around $53,000, paid nine months.

In the last offer, as of Feb. 13, the administration team proposed a 2 percent increase in pay for fiscal year 2023 and then a 1.5% increase for the next three FY’s but with stipulations.

These stipulations state that the increase can be as low as 1 percent if the state’s budget is reduced in any way, or if Eastern doesn’t retain a specific amount of full-time, first-time students into their sophomore years. 

This retention rate is based on nearly a decade ago and reflects enrollment for fall 2013 to fall 2014, according to Eastern’s retention table

The union will gain a base raise for the first year and then the stipulations will start for retained enrollment. It requires 76 percent of returning freshmen as sophomores to keep their full-time, first-time status. Then the cycle will go on for the next fiscal year’s retention rate. These returning rates will increase by 1 percent for each year as the contract continues totaling to 78 percent by the fourth year.

EIU-UPI proposed an increase of 8 percent for FY 23, and then 5.5% the following three years. The union stated these numbers reflect ‌previous years where the contract’s cost of living increase hung around 1 to 2 percent.

The rate of inflation for the Midwest has increased by 6 percent from January 2022 to January 2023. If the salary increase doesn’t meet or exceed the 6 percent inflation unit, everyone under the contract will face a pay decrease.

EIU-UPI’s contract proposals would only cost the university around $3 million. The university currently has a $9 million in surplus, according to EIU-UPI.

There are multiple reasons why students dropout of college. One of them is financial instability or personal reasons like mental health. No union members influence the choices of Financial Aid; so we ask why make this stipulation dependent on one of the main reasons students drop out, if they can’t control it?

This back and forth has shown us the wide gap between the two bargaining teams. We understand the university wants to build back funds, but there should be an obligation to pay your workers the wages they deserve. Or at bare minimum a livable one.

All parties do not want the strike. As a staff composed of students, the risk to our education is concerning. Students pay thousands of dollars to attend Eastern, but the potential to be left stranded as our professors leave for a rightful cause splits our feelings. 

On one hand we want to pursue our education with no hurdles, and on the other we want our professors to get paid properly. If the only possible way for the negotiations to come to an end is by having a strike, then that is what needs to be done.

To the union members, we at The News encourage union members to vote yes for the strike in hopes that with the potential of a strike comes the change needed. 

To the administration, we implore you to budge on your propositions so we can avoid a strike that will damage the reputation and image Eastern holds.


The Editorial Board can be reached at 581-2812.