CHARLESTON, Ill. (WCIA) — Eastern Illinois University has issued its “last, best and final offer” to the union representing its teachers to end a five-day strike while declining any further offers of bargaining.
This offer comes after university administrators and leaders of EIU University Professionals of Illinois met on Tuesday for continued negotiations. In a press release, EIU Public Information Coordinator Josh Reinhart said the bargaining session lasted over six hours, during which the two parties agreed on everything except economics.
EIU proposed an additional 3% pay increase over the next four years, but UPI turned this down. At the end of the bargaining session, Reinhart said UPI gave a proposal and abruptly walked out around 10:30 p.m.
“In doing so, UPI demonstrated that it was not interested in reaching agreement and it abandoned its commitment to EIU’s students,” Reinhart said. “EIU cannot express enough how disappointed it is in the conduct of UPI and its refusal to stay at the table to end this strike.”
Reinhart said EIU was left with no option but to deliver their offer by email. It would result in a 15% increase over the term of the new contract.
In response to Reinhart’s statement, UPI released a press release of its own on Wednesday, slamming the statements he made.
“They talk about abandoning students. Where were you when we were fighting for our students since March of 2022?” asked UPI President Jennifer Stringfellow. “Where were you when we educated our students on the lawn of Doudna Hall in September on what our labor is worth and how our contract affects them? Where were you when we exposed how EIU treats their employees, who are dedicated to educating future teachers, yet may not make enough to ever enjoy retirement security after decades of service teaching?”
UPI Lead Negotiator Billy Hung also weighed in, taking aim at the university’s actions following the end of Tuesday’s bargaining session.
“We sent our proposal last night assuming that the administration would take appropriate time to consider it and continue our discussion together in the morning. Instead, they sent us a final offer an hour later and sent the media a middle-of-the-night press release,” he said. “I am disappointed by this step that administration took because they are clearly trying to force a deal onto our members. This damages the process and it is a disservice to our campus and community.”
A planned Community and Student Day hosted by UPI will continue as planned on Wednesday, recognizing student’s support for UPI during the strike.