by Chris Weber
University Park, IL-(LOCAL NEWS ALLIANCE)- Governors State University’s faculty and staff union (GSU UPI) voted overwhelmingly last week to authorize a strike if a new contract agreement cannot be reached.
The vote comes after nine months of negotiations, mediation, and little progress at the bargaining table. Many GSU UPI members have continued working to serve students despite the expiration of their contracts last August.
With 85% of the union’s members casting ballots, 97% voted in favor of a strike.
The union filed its 10-day Intent to Strike paperwork with the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board on Monday morning, meaning the earliest they can strike is April 7. According to GSU UPI representatives, the soonest the group would strike is April 10 because of the Easter holiday.
“We prefer to settle at the table,” said GSU Assistant Professor Chris Tweddle. “There are two bargaining sessions scheduled in the coming weeks, and we hope that the administration presents a fair and equitable contract.”
A press release from the union pointed out that “as a Minority Serving Institution and emerging Hispanic Serving Institution, GSU is dedicated to closing equity gaps and supporting students throughout their time at the university. The union believes that one essential way to do this is to ensure that advisors have manageable workloads so the time and resources to assist all students are available.”
However, some academic advisors currently have as many as 500 student advisees, which they say makes it impossible for them to give students the support they need.
“We need our contract settled now – and we’re doing everything we can to avert a strike,” said Mike Hart, GSU UPI president and senior lecturer, in the press release. “At our last mediation session, we came down on our financial proposal in an effort to compromise with administration and get closer to a deal, but they still won’t budge. We’re also trying to work with the university to address the overwhelming workload our advisors face, but the administration can’t even tell us how they manage advisor workload assignments. No one wants to strike, but we are willing to if necessary to settle a fair contract that gives us the support required to ensure our students get the resources they need to succeed.”
GSU UPI is the third university union in Illinois to take a strike vote within three weeks. Eastern Illinois and Chicago State Universities have also reached this stage in each of their respective bargaining processes.
GSU President Cheryl Green has not responded to requests for comment.
The next bargaining session between GSU UPI and the representatives of the Governors State University administration is scheduled for Thursday, March 30. The administration is expected to respond to the last counteroffer from GSU UPI.
This article was published with the permission of the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle, a fellow member of the Local News Alliance.