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UIC Workers Vote to Authorize Strike

By Joe Iosbaker

winter picketers with purple SEIU signs

Chicago, IL – From Jan. 15 to Jan. 23, hundreds of clerical and administrative workers at UIC (University of Illinois – Chicago) turned out for a strike authorization vote. 94% of them supported the call from their elected bargaining committee to walk out of work if negotiations fail to reach an agreement.

The workers, members of Local 73 SEIU (Service Employees International Union) have gone without a contract raise for over two years. Sirlena Perry, a member of the bargaining committee as well as Local 73’s executive board, said, “We’ve never had a strike at UIC, but we can’t accept what’s on the table. There is no raise for the first year, no retro pay back to the August start date of this contract year and no language to give us job security.”

Another major issue is the disparity in wages between the Chicago campus and the sites in Rockford and Peoria. For many years, Chicago workers had been paid less than those at the campus in downstate Urbana. After a decade long fight to win parity for Chicago, the workers at the other sites are striving for this goal as well.

Responding to a call for an emergency picket, 40 members of Local 73 SEIU marched outside the College of Dentistry, Jan. 14. The action was held to protest retaliation against an employee for union activity. The workers’ protest hit this attack, as well as the fact that 1900 clerical, administrative and technical workers have gone two years without a contract. Regina Russell, a member of the clerical and administrative bargaining committee, had only a light jacket, but said, “We have to come out to defend each other. An injury to one is an injury to all.” Temperatures that day were in the low 20s and the wind was gusting to 30 miles an hour, but the picket line was maintained for two hours.

Bargaining is scheduled with a federal mediator on Feb. 6. If this fails to bring the two sides together, the union will go forward with their plans. To show their determination, many of the voting workers wore on their lapels a sticker that read, “UIC won’t work without us!”

winter picketers with purple SEIU signs

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