97% of voting EIU-UPI members authorize ability to strike

Madelyn Kidd, Editor-in-Chief

Eastern’s chapter of University Professionals of Illinois, EIU-UPI, held a strike authorization vote on Wednesday and Thursday. 85 percent of union members voted with 97 percent voting “Yes” authorizing EIU-UPI’s bargaining team to call for a strike if deemed necessary. (Rob Le Cates)

EIU-UPI members voted to authorize a union strike if the almost year-long contract bargaining continues without reaching an agreement.

Eastern’s chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois held a strike authorization vote Wednesday and Thursday resulting in 97 percent of voting union members voting “Yes.” A total of 85 percent of union members voted in the strike authorization vote.

The large approval for a strike if necessary means EIU-UPI could go on strike if the ongoing contract negotiations with Eastern’s administration does not reach an agreement soon.

EIU-UPI has been negotiating for a new contract since March 21, 2022.

The last contract ended on Aug. 31 leaving union members working without a contract for over seven months.

EIU-UPI called for a federal mediator in November to help move the bargaining sessions along.

The authorization for a strike does not mean the union will strike. It allows the EIU-UPI bargaining team to call for a strike if they feel the contract negotiations continue to make little to no movement towards an agreement.

The EIU-UPI and Eastern’s negotiation teams will meet for a mediation meeting Friday.

Jennifer Stringfellow, EIU-UPI’s president and a professor of special education at Eastern, said the strike authorization vote shows Eastern’s administration that while the union does not want to strike, they will if necessary. 

“This vote sends a clear message to EIU administration that we’re all in,” Stringfellow said. “Our members resoundingly reject what they are offering at the table. We don’t want to strike, but we’re willing to do this to ensure EIU students get the high-quality education they deserve, and that our members get a fair contract.”

One of the biggest hurdles left for EIU-UPI and Eastern to reach an agreement on are wage increases to reflect the cost of living. 

Billy Hung, EIU-UPI’s lead negotiator and a professor of biological sciences at Eastern, said the proposals from EIU-UPI will reflect the current economy and help faculty and staff retention rates at Eastern.

“We continue to offer proposals that make EIU stronger,” Hung said. “We’re calling on the university to plan for the future and settle an agreement that will boost faculty and staff retention. We are asking for fair compensation that reflects the current economy. We are demanding that our students get the resources and support they need as they recover from a pandemic and prepare for a career. And we need EIU administration to come to the table with a plan to make these demands a reality.”

Billy Hung, lead negotiator for Eastern’s chapter of University Professionals of Illinois, high fives fellow union members before going into a bargaining meeting for a new contract. The negotiation team now has the authority to call for a union strike following the union’s strike authorization vote on Wednesday and Thursday. (Madelyn Kidd)

EIU-UPI is the union representing approximately 450 people, which includes 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. 

This includes faculty teaching courses and advisors for students.

If a strike is called, all union members are required to participate in the strike unless they resign from the union.

A strike would result in classes across Eastern’s campus to be canceled if taught by a union member. Department chairs and newly hired faculty and staff would not be in the union and able to participate in the strike.

UPI chapters across Illinois have faced the possibility of a strike in the last year.

University of Illinois Chicago went on a four-day strike before the administration and union reached a contract both sides agreed with.

Chicago State University’s UPI chapter is having their own vote for if they can go on strike. CSU’s vote for a strike started on Wednesday and ends Friday.

John Miller, the UPI president and Illinois Federation of Teachers vice president of higher education, said taking the step to go on strike is not easy, but he is proud of union members for demanding solutions.

“I’m proud of our members who are standing together to demand real solutions to the challenges facing EIU,” Miller said. “Taking this step isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s necessary so that faculty and staff can continue to give our students a fully resourced and well-supported college education and to ensure EIU remains a high-quality place to learn and work.”


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