URBANA, Ill. (WCIA) — After months of negotiations and frustration, service workers at the University of Illinois have a new labor contract.
Service Employees International Union Local 73 announced on Tuesday that its 800+ members “overwhelmingly voted” in the last week to ratify their new contracts, averting a strike the union had already filed notice for.
“There was nothing easy about winning these contracts. Members worked day-and-night to organize, stand up and fight for it,” said Union Chapter President and Dining Service Worker Dena Gary. “The bargaining committee and I are proud of the work that members did. They put the pressure on UIUC and helped ensure the conversations at the bargaining table became more productive with time.”
The union’s bargaining committee and the university agreed to the contract just a few days before the previous contract expired. Because the contract had not been ratified when the previous one expired on Aug. 22, the union filed a 15-day strike notice and could’ve gone on strike any time after Sept. 5.
Members believe the contract is “one of the most monumental contracts in the history of these two bargaining units.” It increases workers’ wages by $2.50 throughout the two-year agreement, which union leaders said is the largest they’ve seen in years. The contract also includes wage increases for night workers, lighter work clothing, overtime and parking changes.
However, service workers stressed that the new contracts are shorter in time duration than previous agreements and they expect the fight to continue in the lead-up to the contract’s expiration in August of 2024. The workers promised to continue organizing their colleagues until then.
“The contract is just two years. That’s a blink of an eye in the labor world,” said Alvin Allen, Bargaining Committee member and Dining Service Worker. “We know we won this battle, but the next one looms closely. It’s up to us to keep the energy and pressure up, and we believe we can. Our members are ready for the next contract fight to begin.”