ISU Graduate Student Union holds strike vote
The over 400 members of the student workers union at Illinois State University will vote on a strike on October 4th.
Trevor Rickerd, a member of the union negotiating team, said the union and university administration are far apart on economic issues, including the pay and compulsory fees of $ 2,500 for ISU graduates. The two sides have been speaking since 2019 despite the summers and the pandemic hampering negotiations.
“If you’re talking about someone who is already earning the minimum scholarship in college, that’s already 25% of their annual salary … We believe that number should be a lot lower,” said Rickerd.
Other contentious issues, Rickerd said, include a no-strike clause and restrictions on involvement in other labor issues.
“In negotiations they have stated that employees who, for example, verbally or in writing on campus show support for other unions when they attempt a strike, that they can be punished up to and including dismissal, which we do not consider legal.” And one Violation of freedom of expression, ”said Rickerd.
He said the administration and graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) who are Local 73 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have also failed to agree on the contract duration, although not everything is at a dead end.
“We have made preliminary agreements on many non-economic issues,” said Rickerd.
Last semester, 98% of union members authorized the negotiating team to call a strike if necessary. Now the team has called for a strike vote on October 4th. A strike is not safe even if the strike vote is valid.
“The only thing that would prevent that would be if the university came back to us with a contract offer that we could take on in our units, but until then there will be a lot of talk,” said Rickerd.
A strike would require 10 days of legal notice before action could take place. The next planned negotiation meeting with a federal mediator is on September 28th.
ISU spokesman Eric Jome referred questions about administrative positions to a university website with their latest offering: Status of Negotiations with SEIU Local 73 – Illinois State
ISU noted that the no-strike clause is a common clause that governs the duration of the contract in question.
According to the university’s website on the status of negotiations, the ISU offered an increase in the minimum scholarships: 16.5% + upon ratification and a further 10% + in the following two years and an additional year to conclude the contract with an increase of between 7.49% and 11, 99% off the minimum scholarships this additional year.
GTAs who already earn more than the new minimum scholarship would receive increases of 2% upon ratification and in each subsequent contract year, the university said. ISU said its proposal exceeds the average minimum part-time (.50 FTE), 9-month GTAs to 20 peer institutions of $ 9,151 (Masters) and $ 10,572 (PhD student) at the start of the contract. ISU said its tuition waiver policies are also more generous than those of most peer institutions.
The union said it intends to continue picket lines and other measures to raise awareness among school administrators about their issues.