BREAKING NEWS: EIU-UPI to strike Thursday

Madelyn Kidd and Cam'ron Hardy

EIU-UPI Lead Negotiator Billy Hung talks with union members after the strike was announced Tuesday evening at the Union in the Charleston/Mattoon Room. Hung said he was overwhelmed by the support from the union in favor of the strike. (Rob Le Cates)

Eastern’s chapter of University Professionals of Illinois, EIU-UPI, will strike starting Thursday morning after a year-long negotiation period with Eastern.

The union held a membership meeting to discuss the Eastern administration’s negotiating team’s new contract proposal from Monday.

EIU-UPI and administration have been negotiating for a new contract for over a year.

EIU-UPI’s bargaining held the power to call for a strike; however, before doing so they wanted to see what the union members wanted to do first.

EIU-UPI members took a survey stating which of three choices they wanted to do moving forward in negotiations for a new contract with Eastern.

Over 185 members participated in the survey.

A large number of participating members, 95 percent, said they wanted to strike starting Thursday morning.

Billy Hung, EIU-UPI’s lead negotiator and a biology professor, said it was important to know that EIU-UPI members are willing to support the decision of a strike even at the cost of their salaries.

“I am so touched by how our members really want this, and they’re willing to put their salary on the line to make sure that we have a sustainable plan at EIU that the human capitals that make this university unique are properly addressed and that we can continue to thrive,” Hung said. “Because if we as a campus can’t do that, then what do we have?”

Betsy Jewell, an EIU-UPI negotiation team member and academic support professional in student publications, said by EIU-UPI striking, it helps other faculty on campus get higher salary increases in the future as well.

“We have to get the raises on this campus out of the basement for all people on campus,” Jewell said. “It’s been long enough of having the one to two percent values, so it’s important for us to stand for everyone on campus and help them increase the human capital worth on this campus, the value that the university is putting into humans on this campus.”

Billy Hung, the lead negotiator for Eastern’s chapter of University Professionals of Illinois’s bargaining team, talks with union members after the strike was announced Tuesday evening at the Union in the Charleston/Mattoon Room. The union voted approximately 95 percent in favor of striking and will take to the picket line Thursday morning. Hung said he was overwhelmed by the support from the union in favor for the strike. (Rob Le Cates)

Melissa Ames, an EIU-UPI negotiation team member and professor of English, said students are also learning throughout this process to know your voice matters.

“We’re sending a message to students,” Ames said. “This is a message that you should always fight for your value and your work and I’m excited to see them join us in that, and always know that your voice matters and people should listen.”

Hung said the union is striking starting Thursday to improve the quality of education at Eastern.

“I think the one thing we want the campus and the community to know is that we’re doing this because we care about the quality of the education that our students are receiving at EIU,” Hung said. “It’s painful to strike obviously, that is why we held out as long as we can to get a resolution without it but it’s not possible without it.”

Lee Patterson, a professor of history, was in attendance at the meeting as well.

“We have voted to strike, and I think we fell this was a necessary step,” Patterson said. We didn’t want to have to take this step, but we don’t feel like we have a choice. The administration pushed this on us.”

Patterson said the working condition and the student’s learning conditions on their learning experience are parallel.

Patterson also said students come to Eastern to obtain a “good education” and faculty are the key to that.

“Why the administration thinks that mistreating us faculty is in the best interest of EIU makes so sense,” Patterson said. “I’m utterly baffled.”

Steve Scher, a psychology professor, walks out of Eastern chapter of University Professionals of Illinois meeting where, after voting, approximately 95 percent voted in favor of striking Tuesday evening. The union’s bargaining team made the final decision to strike. (Rob Le Cates)

Steve Scher, professor of psychology, sat in on the meeting and commented how things went.

“We knew what we had to do [and what] has to be done because the university has failed to show any respect and treat us as an important part of the university,” Scher said.

Scher said that faculty members are an important part of the university due to being the ones connecting with the students and keeping the university running.

Scher also said that those involved are ready to take the next steps.

“[We] want to show the administration that it matters a lot whether that we’re not going to do the things that we do not just in the classroom,” Scher said. “That’s important of course, but also advising students working in the library serving on committees, supervising researchers, students, and that they can’t do this without us, obviously, and they need to show that they recognize that in many, many ways.”

Shelly Spear, an instructor of the English department, was also in the meeting.

Spear said the meeting was, “An astounding feeling of unity that felt incredible to be a part of. I think that everyone is ready to do what they need to do to make the university what we want it to be.”

Shelley Berry, a journalism professor and union member of Eastern’s chapter of University Professionals of Illinois, holds their arm up in pride after the strike was announced Tuesday evening at the Union in the Charleston/Mattoon Room. (Rob Le Cates)

In email to Union members, they were instructed to not report to work at the beginning of Thursday morning, not to check emails and to not update online courses.

Additionally in the email, they were instructed to update their automatic reply emails to: “The Eastern Illinois University chapter of University Professionals of Illinois, UPI 4100, is currently on strike.  If you need assistance, contact the Department Chair, [name] at [email].  After the strike is over, I will see your email and will respond at that time.”

EIU-UPI have been bargaining for a new faculty contract since March 21, 2022. They have been working without a contract since Aug. 31.

EIU-UPI delivered a grievance to Glassman’s office for not bargaining in good faith in October.

A federal mediator was called in by the union in November after bargaining sessions had reached a “stone-wall.”

The union delivered an intent to strike on March 27 to Glassman’s office allowing them to strike as early as Thursday.

Eastern is not the only university with a teacher strike on the horizon. 

Chicago State University’s chapter of UPI began their union strike on Monday after bargaining for nearly a year. 

On day one of striking, Chicago State began picketing at 9:30 a.m. and held a press conference at noon.

For day two on Tuesday, they began picketing again at 9:30 a.m. and rallied at noon.

Governor State University UPI have filed their intent to strike if an agreement is not reached as well. They can strike as early as April 7.

Eastern has yet to respond to the strike announcement.


Madelyn Kidd and Cam’ron Hardy can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].