As Strike Looms, Students Take Action to Support SEIU

On Thursday, April 14 at 5:50 PM, undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will be taking action at the Pennsylvania Avenue Residence (PAR) dining hall to educate students on, and show support for, the Union of University Food and Building Service Workers’ (SEIU Local 73, Chapter 119) 8-month struggle to negotiate a fair contract.  The action will momentarily disrupt dining hall service to demonstrate how the administration’s refusal to negotiate a fair contract with food and building service workers may soon result in a long-term disruption of dining hall service.

Earlier this year 98% of food service workers and 94% of building service workers authorized a strike.  That strike is poised to begin Monday, April 18, should the university’s administration fail to negotiate a contract.

Following the action, the Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance (U.G.A.) will hold a meeting at 7:00 PM in Florida Avenue Residence (FAR) Oglesby Lounge to inform students about the pending strike, how it will affect students living in the residence halls, and how students can support food and building service workers.

The Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance is an alliance of students and registered student organizations brought together in early November 2009 to support the Graduate Employees’ Organization (G.E.O.) in their contract negotiations and strike.

GEO statement of support for SEIU

 

Urbana-Champaign (April 13) - with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Board of Trustees continuing to stall in its negotiations with the Building and Food Service Workers of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, UIUC, the UIUC Graduate Employees Organization (GEO, Illinois Federation of Teachers Local 6300), issued the following statement of support for SEIU Local 73:  

"To: the members of the Service Employees International Union, Local 73, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

From: The Members of the Graduate Employees Organization, Illinois Federation of Teachers/American Federation of Teachers, Local 6300 (GEO)

We, the members of the Graduate Employees Organization, Illinois Federation of Teachers/American Federation of Teachers, Local 6300 (GEO), stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers of the Service Employees International Union, Local 73, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (SEIU Local 73), in their struggle for a good contract.

SEIU Local 73 is asking for wage increases tied to inflation, and is trying to maintain staffing levels of full-time, permanent employees.

The Administration, claiming a difficult financial situation, wants to freeze wages, and eliminate permanent food service and facilities employees, replacing them with temporary workers or outside contractors. At the same time, the University is planning to raise students’ tuition by nearly 7% in Fall–an increase that will, if the recent past is any indication, go to funding a bloated administration.

The UIUC Administration is asking workers and students to share the sacrifice, while administrators get raises.

The GEO stands with SEIU Local 73, and calls on the UIUC negotiating team to stop the months of stalling and agree to the SEIU’s contract proposals.

We call on the University system and State of Illinois to settle their back payments issues, and fully fund education in the state of Illinois.

We say it is time for the spending priorities of the University to reflect its founding mission — “Learning and Labor” — rather than its recent unofficial attitude to its employees of “Learning to Labor for Less.”

If the UIUC Negotiating team does not bargain with SEIU Local 73, and forces SEIU Local 73 to take strike action on April 18, as the members of SEIU Local 73 have indicated they are willing to do, the members of the GEO will support the sisters and brothers of SEIU Local 73, just as members of SEIU Local 73 supported us during our strike in 2009. 

The GEO does not support a wildcat strike or GEO members withholding labor in any way, but GEO members will join the SEIU picket lines in solidarity in their free time.

The members of SEIU Local 73 are fighting for the future of public employees in the state of Illinois, just as hundreds of thousands did in Wisconsin earlier this year.

As GEO members stands with public employees in Wisconsin and elsewhere, we stand in solidarity with our fellow public employees here at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

In Solidarity,

The Members of the GEO" 

 

The Graduate Employees’ Organization, AFT/IFT Local 6300, AFL-CIO, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, represents approximately 2700 Teaching and Graduate Assistants on the UIUC Campus. In November 2009, over 1,000 GEO members successfully went on strike to secure a fair contract and more accessible UIUC. The GEO continues to work for high quality and accessible public education in Illinois.

For more information, please contact Peter Campbell, GEO Communications Committee member, at 253-222-5861, or Natalie Uhl, GEO Communications Officer, at 317-652-7298 or natalieuhl@gmail.com.  Please contact Peter Campbell for inquiries before Friday, April 15.  More information can also be found on our website at uigeo.org.  The full text of the GEO's statement in support of SEIU is available at http://www.uigeo.org/2011/04/14/geo-statement-in-support-of-seiu-local-73-uiuc/

 

BREAKING: UIUC student arrested at SEIU solidarity demo

BREAKING: U of I freshman Daniel Werst has been arrested by campus police for expressing his first amendment rights and standing in support of SEIU FSWs and BSWs. Please attend tonight's meeeting Food & Building Service Workers Strike - Student/Community Info Meeting to help us free Daniel! STUDENTS & WORKERS UNITE!

Daniel out on bail

 Word is Daniel got out on bail for $190.  He was charged with trespassing on state property. BD

UGA Statment on Arrest

Daniel Werst, freshman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, was released from police custody earlier this evening after posting bond.  He was arrested and charged with “criminal trespass to state property” at the behest of University Housing administrators following his participation in an action at the Pennsylvania Avenue Residence (PAR) dining hall.  The action, organized by the Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance, momentarily disrupted dinner as seven undergraduates and one graduate student chanted and passed out flyers.

 

“It is beyond me how a freshman and resident of FAR/PAR could be arrested for criminal trespass in his own university’s dining hall,” said Carlos Daniel Rosa, one of the students who participated in the action. “It is clear to me that Daniel being charged with ‘trespassing’ in a dining hall he frequents is an attempt by University Housing administrators to curtail students’ first amendment rights and keep students in the dark about the failed contract negotiations.”

 

Daniel and the seven other students who participated in the action sought to bring attention to the plight of food and building service workers, who may go on strike Monday as a result of the administration’s refusal to negotiate a fair contract.  Food service workers who earn $15,000/year have been offered a $0.00 increase.

 

"I saw a young man trying to get information out in a peaceful manner being taken out by the police.” said Theartis Butler, a Junior and resident of PAR.  Daniel’s arrest prompted Theartis to attend the Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance’s meeting at 7:00 PM at the Florida Avenue Residence (FAR) Hall.

 

At the meeting students voted unanimously in favor of a statement supporting the SEIU and discussed how the potential strike will affect students. Student workers will be forced by Housing administrators to do tasks outside of their job descriptions, classrooms and residence halls will not be cleaned, and the dining halls may run out of food as Teamsters refuse to deliver food to picketed buildings.

 

“It’s important for students to direct their anger at those responsible – the university administration,” said Alex Castro, Senior in LAS.  “Our food & building service workers really care about us, they break their backs for us - they just want a fair wage that reflects that.”

Press coverage on arrest

TV coverage here.

 

And Daily Illini here.

 

Press coverage on arrest

It's about time that the injustice in Champaign County be address and corrected. I have formed a video production company and will be in Champaign county, cameras rolling in May. Videos will be posted to our web site and to You Tube. We are also making a documentary film in Champaign about DCFS. If anyone has a story of any kind let us know. We can be contacted at: info@pmfilmproductions.com.
 
Brian, keep up the good work!
 
 
Cary
PM Film Productions

UGA Statement of Solidarity with SEIU

Statement of Solidarity with University Food and Building Service Workers

Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance

 

We, the Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance (U.G.A.), represent hundreds of undergraduate students in every academic unit, as well as dozens of Registered Student Organizations of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We stand in solidarity with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 73, comprised of approximately 800 Building and Food Service Workers at the University of Illinois, in their struggle for a living wage and equitable working conditions. We urge all our fellow undergraduate students to support SEIU workers for the following reason:

 

Food Service Workers prepare and serve our food in the dining halls, working in compliance of the highest quality standards and doing their utmost to make sure that we receive a proper, healthy and balanced diet. Thanks to them, many of us are able to face our daily academic challenges with energy and enthusiasm.

 

Building Service Workers are the ones who sweep our dorms, mop the halls, empty trashcans, sanitize the restrooms, clean classrooms, laboratories and offices... they are the ones who shovel the snow and salt the sidewalks under mighty winter storms so that work on campus doesn't come to a halt.

 

Although the product of their labor is not often noticed, they are essential and indispensable to keep the university alive. This ought to be properly recognized and rewarded. However, this is not the case:

 

Food Service Workers earn an average of $15,000 per year, $7,000 below the poverty line for a family of four, and are laid off on every academic break. During these times they can't access unemployment benefits but must continue to pay their insurance premiums. Building Service Workers earn on average $28,000 a year, for a work that demands exposure to all kinds of health hazards.

 

The university administration argues that any kind of improvement for workers is just impossible in a time of budget crisis. That was also the argument used to impose faculty furlough days last year, and a 6.9% tuition hike for incoming freshmen this year. 'It is painful', their motto goes, 'yet  we are all in this together...'

 

But who exactly are 'we'? President Hogan got a $170,000 increase into his pocket when he was hired, the Football Coach got  $250,000 more. New administrative positions with stratospheric rewards continue to be created. The ex-Chancellor and ex-President involved in the clout scandal were not fired but generously rewarded for their outrageous performance. They are not in this together with workers, faculty and students.

 

The U.G.A. will not tolerate hypocrisy and disdain for campus workers. We demand from the administration that a fair contract for Food and Building Service Workers is signed immediately.

 

We call upon our fellow graduate and undergraduate students to pursue the following actions in support of SEIU:

  • Join us at upcoming rallies, picket lines and teach-ins.
  • Have conversations with friends, family, Professors, acquaintances—anyone who lends an ear.
  • Write letters and make phone calls - tell our University administrators how you feel as a member of this school community.
  • Tell your friends and family to write letters, they, too, have vested interests in this University- justice concerns us all.
  • In the event of a Strike: Avoid crossing picket lines. If your class is being held in a building being picketed contact your Professor and ask them to move the class (contact the Campus Faculty Association to help you and your Professor find a new location).
  • Let administrators know how indispensable food and building service workers are to the campus.
  • Personally let FSWs and BSWs know that you support them and how important they are. 
  • Wear purple.
  • Visit facebook.com/StandWithSEIU, like the ‘page’ and stay informed.

 

Adopted unanimously on Thursday, April 14, 2011 at the Florida Avenue Residence Hall

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