The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is voting this weekend on whether to go on strike, and a possible strike could occur as soon as Monday. These are the workers who clean the buildings on campus, prepare and serve food to students, and provide essential services such as snow removal on campus steps and sidewalks.
Why is SEIU Considering a Strike?
The SEIU bargaining team has been negotiating for a new contract since last spring. Despite reasonable proposals and significant concessions by the union regarding wages, the administration’s most recent proposal would continue to set wages well-below inflation. This is a particular hardship, since many of these workers are amongst the lowest-paid workers on this campus. In addition, many of the food-service employees annually undergo long layoffs, making it necessary for them to find second jobs to make ends meet. The top 28 University of Illinois administrators received an average 5.86 percent wage increase over the past year–that’s over 5 percent added on to their six figure salaries. Yet they cannot find the money to provide basic cost-of-living raises for some of the most vulnerable workers on this campus.
What does a strike mean for TAs, GAs, and RAs, on campus?
SEIU wants GEO members to continue to hold their classes and use the buildings and facilities on campus. By using the buildings, and not having anyone to clean them, empty the trash, and take care of the restroom facilities, it will help to demonstrate to the campus how absolutely essential the labor of these workers is to the functioning of our University. If you are asked to participate in cleaning your building during these days, please do not do so.
What is the timing of a SEIU strike, how long will it last?
SEIU is voting about a potential strike this weekend. If they go on strike, it could start as early as this Monday. We will not know anything for sure until Sunday evening, and we will send out a follow-up update as soon as we know. As is the case with all strikes, the duration will be decided as events unfold–so check the GEO Facebook and website for updates.
How can we support SEIU?
1) The number one thing you can do to support SEIU is to sign up to picket with them this Monday and Tuesday (during times when you are not in class or at work on campus). Email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for time(s) during these two days. You will be assigned a building to picket, and as much as possible you will be with other GEO members so there will be familiar faces while you walk the lines. SEIU has stood with GEO when we went on strike in 2009, often picketing with us after they had worked long shifts at their own jobs. Now is our chance to stand with them.
2) On Tuesday, starting at Noon, GEO will be sponsoring a ‘bike picket’ in support of SEIU. Bring your bike to the campus YMCA, where we will decorate our bikes (and ourselves) in SEIU’s colors of purple and yellow. We will then bike around campus to the various picket sites, making noise with kazoos and generally drawing attention of students to the strike. This is your chance to support SEIU and be a little bit zany in the process. You can also sign up for this event by emailing email@example.com.
3) The Campus Faculty Association is holding a food drive in support of SEIU. If the union goes on strike, the loss of wages will have signifiant impact on these workers, and this food drive will help them meet the basic needs of their families. You can bring dry and canned goods to a drop off box located at the first floor of the campus YMCA.
4) You can also express your support by posting SEIU posters on doors and bulletin-boards, and wearing yellow and purple clothes and ribbons while you are on campus. Starting Monday at 10 am, you can stop by the GEO office at the YMCA to pick up posters and ribbons. While there pick up some for your friends too!
The strength of labor on this campus rests in our solidarity with one another.