CHARLESTON – Negotiations continue Friday between Eastern Illinois University and its faculty union. But the bargaining session will take place off campus. The union doesn’t want its members to have to cross a picket line to attend the meeting. And as of Thursday, the UPI is on strike against the university in Charleston.
Jennifer Stringfellow is president of the EIU chapter of IFT’s University Professionals of Illinois (Local 4100). She says the decision to strike came after top university administrators, including President David Glassman, took part in a Monday bargaining session. Stringfellow says the union felt that progress toward a settlement was being made and were frustrated when the administration declined to extend the meeting.
Stringfellow says union negotiators had hoped they might make even more progress if they continued the meeting. She says the union membership agreed at a meeting the following day that now was the right time to go on the picket line.
“It was not our negotiating team alone, but many people feeling that it was just not good enough,” said Stringfellow. “Not good enough at all for all that our faculty have done to make sure that Eastern stays open, stays active, stays teaching.”
The union cites compensation and workload as their main concerns in a new contract. Stringfellow says the administration’s current offer give faculty an effective pay cut, due to the impact of inflation.
Stringfellow says members of AFSCME, the government employee union, struck at Eastern a few years ago. But this will be the first work stoppage at the campus in Charleston by faculty members.
Stringfellow says she understands that some faculty’s devotion to their students may make them unwilling to walk off the job.
“This is not an easy decision for anyone,” said Stringfellow. “So I will not be second-guessing anyone’s decision about whether they’re going to cross that picket line or not.”
In a statement, Eastern’s administration says it respects the union’s right to strike. It says steps have been taken steps to ensure that EIU’s students can complete the current semester and graduate on time, even with a strike in progress.
In addition to the strike beginning at Eastern, another faculty strike has been going on since Monday at Chicago State University. And faculty at Governors State University in Will County have approved a strike authorization vote.