The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

AFSCME bargaining for new contract

Kim Pope, an office manager in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the President of AFSCME, sends emails in Doudna Fine Arts Center Nov. 8, 2023 on Eastern Illinois University’s campus in Charleston, Ill. (Cam’ron Hardy)

AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has been bargaining for a new contract for six months with Eastern.  

AFSCME members are in clerical-technical and service positions. Service employees work in food court/catering, residential dining service and building service. 

The clerical-technical and food court/catering contracts expired June 30, 2023. The service contract for residential dining and building services expired Sept. 14, 2023. 

Currently there are just 143 employees in the bargaining unit, and, according to Kim Pope, an office manager in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and also the president of AFSCME, 80% of those employees are members of AFSCME. 

Pope said progress has been made but there are still some things that need to be resolved, specifically the economics.  

“That would be anything related to money, like wages, benefit times, things like that,” Pope said.  

One of the things the union wants is a $16/hour wage, Pope said. 

Pope said she thinks that one of the reasons why an agreement has not been made is due to management. 

Pope said that they have “budgetary reasons” why explains why they have been offering what they have been offering. Some of the things that go into this, according to Pope, was the enrollment, state appropriations and other things related to the subject.   

A statement from the university stated: “As you know, the University is involved in active negotiations and for that reason we are unable to comment at this time.  Please know that EIU values, respects, and appreciates our longstanding partnership with AFSCME Local 981 and all of its members, as well as all of our negotiated colleagues across campus.  We look forward to finalizing a new agreement as soon as possible.” 

AFSCME also bargained for a contract back in 2020 during COVID.  

Pope said they had been negotiating for over 400 days before receiving a contract in 2020, but Pope said things are different now.  

“We feel that our employees have gone without a fair wage increase for quite some time,” Pope said. “There were actually a few years, because of the budget impasse, where we didn’t get an increase at all, and since then we’ve only seen pretty minimal increases. What we’re asking for is for EIU to make up some ground for that time that our employees have lost their wages. And because of inflation and health insurance costs continue to go up, while we’re getting these small increases, we’re actually taking home fewer and fewer dollars every year. So, that’s kind of the motivation behind what we’re asking for.” 

According to an article by The Daily Eastern News, The contract for BSWs and food service workers accounts for 110 Eastern employees and will be effective from Sept. 15, 2020 to Sept. 14, 2023. Three raises will occur over the lifetime of the contract: 

  • 1.5% increase effective Sept. 15, 2020, 
  • 1.25% increase effective Sept. 15, 2021, 
  • 1.25% increase effective Sept. 15, 2022. 

 Pope said they are here to serve the students and they are a priority to them, but they also need to be able to support themselves. 

“We need fair wages to be able to continue working here [and] to support students,” Pope said. “We provide vital services for the students, like I said, cleaning residence halls and cleaning the classrooms and the buildings, cooking their meals, providing administrative assistance to them. I mean, if we weren’t here, that would be a major problem for students.” 

Pope said a strike is not “desirable” because it would be hard on employees, but “it’s something that we always have to consider.” 

“[It’s] something that we have to be aware of the possibility, so that’s something that we always have to be prepared for,” Pope said.  

Overall, Pope said that the fight for a new contract is more than that, but it also about equity, fairness and dignity of the employees.  

She said members take pride in their work and just want to be able to support themselves and their families.  

“We have a lot of employees here who have to work a second job just to make ends meet because what they’re earning here isn’t enough,” Pope said. “We have single income households, it’s hard on an employee when they’re not making enough to support themselves and we have employees here who are barely making just over minimum wage. When you’re working in a professional university, you would expect to be paid accordingly.” 

 

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

 

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Camron Hardy
Camron Hardy, News Editor
Cam'ron is a junior journalism major. He previously served news editor and campus editor at The News. 

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