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1200 more UIC workers to vote on striking

By Joe Iosbaker

Members of Local 73 picket at UIC

Chicago, IL – Between July 30 and August 2, 800 service and maintenance workers and 400 technical workers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) will take strike votes. Bargaining for the two contracts has gone on since February and ground to a stop in the past several weeks.

On July 9 the negotiating committee for the technical unit walked out of bargaining. Andre Reed, a pharmacy technician, explained that the negotiation session was the first time they had met in one month. “Management promised if we took a one month break, they would have proposals on economics, but their representative, Steve Katz, came with nothing in his hands.”

Jerry Thomas, an equipment specialist in the College of Dentistry, described the reaction from the members of the committee when they caucused. “One worker said he was fed up and we should walk out and everyone else agreed. When we came back to the table and said we were walking, it was the first time that Katz looked like he cared about us at all.”

Management has agreed to federal mediation, but the committees have gone ahead and called for strike authorization votes for both units. A third bargaining unit of 1500 clerical workers voted by 84% in April to strike if contract can’t be reached with the help of the federal mediator. All three bargaining units are represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73.

Remzi Jaos, director for the Higher Education Division of Local 73, told the members in a letter mailed to everyone’s home, that either management negotiates “… a fair contract or [we] will strike together when the students return to campus for fall semester.” The first day of classes is Aug. 23.

Mood Changes Among Workers

Early this year, many workers were worried about their jobs in the economic crisis and were taken in by management’s claim of economic hardship.

Then in May, the University hired a new president for $620,000 a year. This is $170,000 above the salary of the outgoing president. In addition, newly installed President Hogan just doubled the salary for his assistant. White’s assistant made $107,500. Hogan will pay his new assistant almost double that: $195,000.

These outrageous increases happened while UIC laid off 40 union members during the spring. The number of building service workers is half what it was a few years ago, with each worker expected to take on more work. Technical workers are seeing more and more non-union, non-civil service employees taking their work. For clerical and administrative employees, the issue of job security issue is the top priority. In recent years, hundreds of civil service and union workers have been replaced by ‘academic professionals’: non-civil service employees.

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