Response to Chancellor Allen-Meares Statement on Negotiations

By Joe Iosbaker, Chief Steward, UIC Clerical Unit, SEIU Local 73

On August 10th, the Chancellor sent a letter to every employee and student at UIC. While we won’t have the opportunity to get our response to every student and non-union employee, our members and supporters need to hear the truth.

Who’s Greedy?

The Chancellor painted a picture of greedy public employees, asking for 20% raises in a time of economic crisis. She claimed that UIC treats “… all our employees — whether unionized or not — fairly and equitably.”

Neither of these statements is true.

Is Local 73 asking for 20% raises? No. The proposal from the Clerical bargaining committee is for 8.25% over 3 years.

Does UIC treat all employees fairly and equitably? No, unless everyone received a 37% increase like President Hogan, who is now being paid $620,000 – not to mention the $245,000 bonus he’ll receive over five years. Or an 85% increase like his assistant, now being paid $195,000 a year, up from the $105,000 a year salary that President Ikenberry’s assistant was making.

She didn’t mention her own salary: she was hired in 2008 at $375,000 a year, nearly a $50,000 raise over her predecessor. She also didn’t mention the $500,000 spent to rehab and furnish her mansion, provided to her rent free.

The Chancellor’s letter claimed, “Frankly, we cannot afford double digit pay increases, nor are there market or cost-of-living factors which would support such increases.” Apparently she wasn’t referring to the top administrators.

She didn’t mention management estimates that Local 73 members at UIC earn an average of $35,000 a year, and this only after fighting for raises for the past 20 years. At this salary, a 2.75% increase would be $975 a year.

Local 73 members aren’t greedy. We’re just not willing to have the budget crisis balanced on our backs while top administrators get exorbitant salaries, raises and perks.

The Ugly Truth

Local 73 has stated since the first day of negotiations over a year ago that our top priority is job security for our members. Hundreds of Civil Service jobs have been eliminated in recent years, replaced by Academic Professionals (APs). Management has refused to even discuss the issue at the table.

Because of this, Local 73 had to approach legislators in Springfield, and the directors of the State University Civil Service System (SUCSS). On August 11th, six State Senators convened a hearing near campus to hear testimony about UIC, where witnesses included the director of SUCSS, and members and representatives of SEIU Local 73. UIC refused requests from legislators to send administrators to testify.

SUCSS director Tom Morelock explained that they have audited UIC twice in recent years, reviewing AP positions exempted from Civil Service going back to 2004. Of the hundreds of positions created and reviewed, in their two audits they found 61% and 67% should have remained Civil Service. Mr. Morelock explained the frustrating three year long effort to reform UIC’s practice. The co-chair of the hearing, Sen. John Sullivan, a member of the Higher Education committee, asked Mr. Morelock, “Do you see this level of problem with other universities in the state?” Morelock answered, “No.”

Local 73 President Christine Boardman exposed that UIC’s practice is discriminatory at its core. “The University is deliberately pursuing a strategy to take people out of Civil Service.” The unionized Civil Service workers at UIC are over 90% Black and Latino, while it appears the majority of Academic Professionals are white. The exact percentages are not known, as UIC has failed to respond to Freedom of Information requests filed by Local 73. Also, President Boardman showed that the wage disparity has grown in recent years between the predominantly white Civil Service workers in Urbana and the mainly Black and Latino work force in Chicago.

In response to the facts about UIC, Local 73 Vice President Phil Martini proposed that UIC should lose its exemption authority. That is, the Vice Chancellor of HR, John Loya, should no longer be able to exempt a position from Civil Service. Sen. Maggie Crotty, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR), declared that she would take that recommendation to JCAR.

Appeal to the Chancellor

Local 73 members work hard. We’ve suffered hundreds of job losses in recent years. As a result, many of us are doing the work of two or three co-workers. The Customer Service Representatives in the Medical Center have almost tripled their work loads over the past six years. There are only half as many Building Service Workers as there used to be. The number of patients seen in the medical center has grown from fewer than 200,000 visits a year to 500,000 visits a year, and our members have shouldered the burden.

Our families are experiencing more unemployment. We come from communities with a growing rate of home foreclosures. We need our modest raises. And we deserve to be treated with respect. HR has engaged in bad faith bargaining. We’re faced with doing something we’ve never had to do: we’ve decided to strike if we can’t get contracts.

It’s up to you, Chancellor.

SEIU Local 73 workers at UIC filed an intent to strike notice on Friday, August 6 after a year of contract negotiation. Below is a letter of support UIC-GEO leadership sent to SEIU workers to show our solidarity with them.

To SEIU Local 73 Workers:

The UIC GEO would like to offer our full support for SEIU workers who are considering a strike after a full year of contract negotiations with no progress.

We stand in solidarity with our fellow workers at UIC, who do the important work of keeping UIC running on a day-to-day basis. Last academic year, the university argued that they hadn’t been paid what they were owed by the state, which put them in a financial crisis and necessitated salary freezes and other draconian measures. As skeptical as we were last year about these excuses, we are even less willing to accept such a narrative this year, when the university has received all of the money they were owed for the prior fiscal year, as well as 80% of the money they are owed for this year. We refuse to accept the excuse that the university has no money for some of its most essential workers when the new president will earn $170,000 more this year than the president did last year.

There is no reason why the university can’t support SEIU workers by giving them a fair contract that offers financial security. We implore the university to treat SEIU workers with the respect they deserve by offering them a fair contract during one of their upcoming mediation sessions. Should the university fail to do so, we will support SEIU workers in their right to strike.

In Solidarity,

The Leadership of UIC-GEO