URBANA — The union of University of Illinois service workers, who clean and cook in campus buildings, overwhelmingly voted to authorize a strike.
Represented by union SEIU Local 73, about 91 percent of the service workers who voted opted to authorize a strike. Votes were gathered May 2-14.
The union didn’t disclose the full voting total of the 800-plus member campus workforce but said it’s the largest turnout in its history.
“With an ongoing pandemic and spikes in cost of living, there have been big issues with the university not addressing staffing, safety and wage compression,” said SEIU Local 73 spokesman Adrian Rojas.
“Workers are overworked, underpaid and not respected enough despite being deemed essential by UIUC.”
“Workers on this campus are sick and tired of the disrespect. We are human beings. UIUC wants to use us up, break us, and throw us away. This vote was workers standing up,” union chapter president and food service worker Dena Gary said in a statement.
In a release sent out Monday, the union criticized the university’s decision to turn down requests for a federal mediator and said it’s requesting intervention by the Illinois Educational Relations Board.
“We feel it is premature to engage a federal mediator, as we are not experiencing any communications issues in the talks, and the current contract doesn’t expire until September 21st of this year,” UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler said.
The union also sued the university earlier this month for preventing three SEIU members from speaking on negotiations and workforce conditions at a recent board of trustees meeting.
“The UI Board of Trustees has a long-standing practice that does not permit the discussion of active negotiations in the public-comment forum at board meetings. SEIU requested time to discuss the status of negotiations,” Kaler said.
The union bargaining team meets again with UI management today.