Strike day 1: EIU-UPI march in the picket line


Madelyn Kidd

Members of the Eastern Illinois University chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois chant about what they want in a new contract during their strike at Old Main.

Madelyn Kidd, Editor-in-Chief

The first union strike at Eastern in 50 years began on Thursday when Eastern’s chapter of University Professionals of Illinois, EIU-UPI, striked after a year of contract negotiations with “little progress made.”

EIU-UPI began their strike after bargaining for a new contract since March 21, 2022. Their last contract ended on Aug. 31.

Throughout the first day of the strike, students, community members, alumni, other faculty and staff and others from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. in front of Old Main with a rally/press conference at 11 a.m. at Morton Park.

Civil service workers strike on Oct. 2, 1973 during ongoing contract negotiations. The strike lasted eight days and ended on Oct. 10, 1973 after a federal mediator was brought into the negotiations, according to The Daily Eastern News’ archives. 

There were no other mentions of any union strikes before or after the civil service workers strike.

President of EIU-UPI Jennifer Stringfellow speaks at the rally at Morton Park Thursday morning. In her speech she said the union isn’t used to fighting for a fair contract. “We’ve been used to an administration that supports us, that understands our value to the university,” Stringfellow said. “Today, we are now dealing with an administration that doesn’t respect that.” (Rob Le Cates)

Jennifer Stringfellow, EIU-UPI’s president and a professor of special education, said this shows a message about Eastern if there has not been a strike since 50 years ago.

“Those 50 years, there was respect for human labor on this campus; the work that we do to keep Eastern going, and there was a mutual respect between members of the administration or teachers- they stayed and that was good,” Stringfellow said.

Lead Negotiator for EIU-UPI Billy Hung speaks at the rally at Morton Park. Hung gave updates on what happened in the negotiations meetings leading up to the strike. He said the full administration team hasn’t shown up to half of the meetings. (Rob Le Cates)

Billy Hung, EIU-UPI’s lead negotiator and a biology professor, said the union strike is important for Eastern’s future.

“We are putting our livelihood on the line for our campus and for our community,” Hung said. “When you’re walking today when it gets cold, you forgot your gloves, take heart that what you’re dealing with matters for our institution, our students, for posterity and it’s not just about today. It is about the health of EIU from now on.”

Many students came out to show support for EIU-UPI and join the picket lines.

Stringfellow said if students want to support the union, make sure not to skip classes or responsibilities.

“If students want to support us, as long as they’re not skipping class or any of their other duties, they could certainly come out here and strike with us,” Stringfellow said. “We have signs we would be happy for them to carry, love to have them with us. And if they can’t do that, then they can put signs in their windows, even just handwritten signs.”

Members of the Eastern Illinois University chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois chant about what they want in a new contract during their strike at Old Main. (Luke Taylor)

Gail Mason, the Coles County Board member representing district 12, delivered doughnuts for union members on the picket line. 

Mason said she was a former Eastern faculty member for 20 years and supports the union in this negotiation progress.

“I want to congratulate you on this,” Mason said. “It’s a horrible thing to have to go through. And it’s unfortunate that we have not yet been successful. And I wish all of you luck and stay firm. We’ve got to make sure that everybody understands what’s going on and just how important this decision is.”

Stringfellow said she is proud of her fellow union members for walking the picket line.

“I am so proud of my colleagues because this is not easy for us, and I am just so proud that they have taken it upon themselves to come out here,” Stringfellow said. “And they recognize just as I have this is for the students as much as it’s for us. The people who are being selfish, it seems to me, is the administration.”

John Miller, president of the UPI, speaks at a rally and press conference at Morton Park Thursday afternoon. (Luke Taylor)

Hasan Mavi, a professor of kinesiology, sport and recreation, said previous contracts with the university have been better earlier on.

“I think the money in 2008 was better than the money now,” Mavi said. “Life is getting tougher and tougher. In terms of finances, but like not just finances. If they let you work without a contract. It means that they don’t value you as a person. In any job, you need a contract to work… You want [administration] to value us as a professor.”

Stringfellow said Eastern has a responsibility to the public and the faculty.

“The funds that come to the university are not their money, it’s not their checkbook,” Stringfellow said. “This is a public university. They have a responsibility to the public, to all of the public. And we are a part of the public because we are not only wage earners, but we are members of the community, our students become members of this community.”

Dana Stodden, a teaching, learning and foundations instructor, speaks at a rally at Morton Park Thursday afternoon. (Luke Taylor)

University President David Glassman said Wednesday that he thought the strike was “premature” because progress was made in negotiation meetings on Monday.

Stringfellow said Glassman and administration had a year to prevent a strike, but waited until the week of.

“Premature may be his idea, but that’s because they haven’t been honestly or actively negotiating for a year,” Stringfellow said. “We started negotiating this contract March of 2022. It’s now April of 2023. And the first reasonable movement we saw was on Monday this week. So a strike is premature? I think he’s not thinking right… For him to say that this is premature, that may make him feel good, but it’s not the truth.”

A 30 foot inflatable rat was on display during the picket outside of Old Main. Stringfellow said the rat is a known figure during picket lines for what it represents.

“The history of that is that a lot of times when people cross picket lines,” Stringfellow said. “In the past, they have been ill treated. That is not us, we are teachers. So we have the rat to say the rats are inside; the rats are in Old Main, and if the rats want to negotiate we are ready to.”

Two cars collided at the stop light near Fourth Street and Lincoln outside Car-X Tire & Auto Thursday afternoon. The crash happened while Eastern’s chapter of UPI picket for a fair contract. (Madelyn Kidd)


Throughout Thursday, many cars that were on Lincoln Ave. honked in support of the union. There were periods of slow traffic caused by cars stopping to honk. 

There was a two-vehicle fender bender approximately at 12:15 p.m. It is unknown the cause of the collision, but it followed a traffic flow jam.

EIU-UPI received attention for the ongoing negotiation from the community, news media, students and the Eastern community within the first day of the strike.

Students, community members and members of other campus unions picketed alongside members of the EIU-UPI during their strike at Old Main. (Luke Taylor)

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

EIU-UPI will picket in front of Old Main from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Friday with half the picketers leaving at 8:30 a.m. to escort the bargaining team to a bargaining session at Elks Lodge at 9 a.m.

The decision to strike Thursday was made Tuesday evening.

After the previous bargaining session ended with Eastern’s administration team walking out before 5 p.m., EIU-UPI held a membership meeting to update members on negotiations and how they want to move forward.

The union delivered the intent to strike to Glassman’s office on March 20.

97 percent of voting union members, 85% of all union members, voted yes to give the EIU-UPI bargaining team the authority to call for a strike on March 9.

More than 100 people picketed with EIU-UPI in front of Old Main on the first day of picketing. (Madelyn Kidd)

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

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

Prior, the union had spoken at multiple Board of Trustee meetings throughout the FY23 and held a “Teach Out” on Sept. 8. The Teach Out provided students information on labor laws and updates on the current negotiations.

The last faculty contract ended on Aug. 31 leaving faculty to work without a contract for over seven months.

EIU-UPI’s negotiation team began preparing and planning for the bargaining session in August 2021. Thus, they have been working on negotiating for a new contract for one and a half years.


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