Service Strike May Bring Campus to Screeching Halt

Ian Becker

With no deal in sight between Service Employees International Union 73 and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign administrators, the union commenced a three-day strike on Monday. Union members, who are responsible for food service and custodial duties on campus, voted to authorize a temporary strike in order to press the university to present a fair offer. Negotiations started in May 2012 but have stalled over issues related to wages, retaliatory discipline and outside contracting. According to the Chicago Tribune, the union expects that, with nearly 800 workers on strike, numerous campus services will be halted. Union spokesman Adam Rosen warns that dorms won’t be cleaned, meal service will be impeded and campus mail delivery stalled until workers return to their posts Thursday. He said about 75 percent of union members have signed up to picket the campus.   University spokeswoman Robin Kaler said food service will continue and administrators will reassign staff to perform striking workers’ “most essential services.”   “We certainly don’t intend for it to affect students,” she said. “It’s the week before spring break. We’ll serve food – hot food. We’ll maintain the halls as best we can.”   When the same union went on a three-day strike last year at the University of Illinois at Chicago, about three-quarters of members participated. Rosen said he expects full participation in this week’s strike. In addition, many students groups and members of staff have pledged not to cross the picket lines in solidarity with members of SEIU Local 73. Following the vote, SEIU president Mary Kay Henry issued the following statement: The 2.1 million members of SEIU are standing in solidarity with the building and food service workers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who are standing up for good jobs that all families need. We join them in calling for the University to act consistently with its reputation as an institution striving for excellence. That means settling a fair contract that guarantees its workers have a paycheck that can support their families and ensuring that every worker has respect and dignity on the job. The strike will continue until midnight on Thursday. No future negotiations are currently scheduled. 

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