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University Service Union Strike

CHAMPAIGN-- The message on Wednesday was clear. Service Employees employed by the University of Illinois were tired of waiting for a new union contract. On Friday they voted on whether or not to strike.

Union spokesman Ricky Baldwin says, "We made a package proposal to them that would settle a lot of the major issues. Essentially saying we'll compromise on this if you'll compromise on that, trying to reach an agreement. We reduced a number of our proposals."

The union is seeking what they feel are fair raises while the university wants to add local 73 to a campus wage program.

In a statement, Robin Kaler, in speaking for the university, says, "We are continuing to meet and work to resolve the outstanding issues. We have negotiation sessions scheduled into February. We are confident we can reach agreement without a strike, but if a strike does happen, we're taking steps to ensure that it would have the least possible impact on students."

The union says the university's raises do not always keep up with inflation, essentially causing members to lose money, and that the university has made attempts to give union work to non-union employees.

Baldwin says, "They've contracted out a lot of our building service work in the last year or so, they had promised us they wouldn't do that anymore and they've continued to do it. These kind of things are very serious for our members because that's what puts food on the table."

No matter the outcome of the vote, both sides are still hoping for resolution.

Baldwin adds, "This vote, again we expect it to be a yes vote, a very strong yes vote. But that doesn't mean we'll go on strike immediately. What it means is that the bargaining team, the elected union bargaining team, is authorized to call a strike if necessary."

Adam Rife reporting