CHARLESTON, Ill. (WCIA) – After a year of bargaining and two days spent casting ballots, Eastern Illinois University faculty and staff have voted to authorize a strike. Of the 85% of union members who voted, 97% greenlit a strike if no agreement can be reached.

In a news release, EIU UPI President Jennifer Stringfellow said: “This vote sends a clear message to EIU administration that we’re all in. Our members resoundingly reject what they are offering at the table. We don’t want to strike, but we’re willing to do this to ensure EIU students get the high-quality education they deserve and that our members get a fair contract.”

The union says this vote doesn’t guarantee a strike, but allows its bargaining team to move forward with one. EIU UPI says it is ready to negotiate, as both sides are set to meet Friday.

In the news release, lead negotiator for the union Billy Hung said: “We continue to offer proposals that make EIU stronger. We’re calling on the university to plan for the future and settle an agreement that will boost faculty and staff retention. We are asking for fair compensation that reflects the current economy. We are demanding that our students get the resources and support they need as they recover from a pandemic and prepare for a career. And we need EIU administration to come to the table with a plan to make these demands a reality.”

The union says “workload and pay” are the biggest issues.

In the news release, University Professionals of Illinois President and IFT Vice President of Higher Education John Miller said: “I’m proud of our members who are standing together to demand real solutions to the challenges facing EIU. Taking this step isn’t easy, but sometimes it’s necessary so that faculty and staff can continue to give our students a fully resourced and well-supported college education and to ensure EIU remains a high-quality place to learn and work.”