CHARLESTON, Ill. (WCIA) — Eastern Illinois University employees walked out of their shifts on Wednesday to ask for higher wages.

Members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal employees left work just before noon to march in front of the main offices. Workers said they have been negotiating with EIU for the past six months.

AFSCME employees are made up of cooks, maintenance and administrative assistants, among other positions. Union members said they want $16 an hour at bare minimum. Negotiations have been going on for the last 6 months, but it is in the past 10 years, union members said, that raises have been long overdue.

AFSCME’s Kim Pope said the less than 10% raise over the past decade or so is not enough, especially when factoring in inflation.

“It’s a great strain on them,” Pope said. “It’s difficult for working families as well. So, we want EIU to make up some pretty decent ground for all of the years of lost pay for our employees.”

She said right now, some employees are only making around $13 to $14 per hour. When you add the cost of health care, Pope said, it’s just not a livable wage.

When reached for comment, the university provided the following statement:

EIU respects the negotiation process and values discussions at the table.  In the interest of transparency, this message provides a campus update on EIU and AFSCME Local 981 negotiations.  Since May 2023, AFSCME Local 981 and EIU have been meeting regularly regarding three collective bargaining agreements that encompass nearly 190 employees in the Service, Clerical and Food Court units.  We are pleased that we have found common ground on many critical proposals and the conversations have been productive and respectful.   

The EIU administration is grateful for our AFSCME colleagues and their commitment to negotiating a contract that values and respects their members. For that reason, we have reached tentative agreements on many proposals and are committed to resolving any remaining bargaining items.  To date, EIU has offered AFSCME a robust four-year package with 14% to 20% hourly wage increases depending on employee classification, and more time off including a new paid community service leave program, State-initiated holidays, expanded bereavement leave, and a new parental leave benefit to support families. 

We remain genuinely thankful for all of EIU’s employees and we look forward to their continued contributions as the University advances its critical mission to serve our students, neighbors, and the State.