Western Courier

‘All stick, no carrot’ UPI and supporters picket Western contract offerings

Nicholas Ebelhack, editor-in-chief

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They want a fair contract. And they want it now.

This is what the University Professionals of Illinois and their supporters picketed for at Chandler Park Thursday afternoon. Over 170 people gathered with signs in hand demonstrating their concerns over prolonged contract negotiations with Western Illinois University.

“It looks a lot like what a strike looks like, we have people with signs voicing our concerns and what it accomplishes is two things,” said UPI President Bill Thompson. “First it educates the public about what our concerns are and it also demonstrates the intensity of our concerns by the fact that we are out there demonstrating.”

While not a strike, Thompson said that the demonstration was essential to showing that UPI members are prepared to continue negotiating for what he called a “mutually beneficial contract.”

“We wouldn’t be doing informational picketing if things were going swimmingly.”

On Feb. 2, Western released their latest on the record proposal to the public. UPI leadership’s response was that they do not see a mutual benefit.

“So far they have not given us a mutually beneficial proposal,” Thompson said. “It’s all stick, no carrot. I want a carrot. At the end of the stick there is no carrot, its just more stick.

Associate Professor of Psychology and UPI Member Dana Lindemann further explained UPI’s dissatisfaction with the current proposal along with Thompson.

“Everything in this current on the record proposal is a loss to the UPI members,” Lindemann said. The one exception to that is that the on the record proposal in regards to promotion, where the increased dollar amounts would benefit any UPI member whose salaries are well above the minima lane. About 20 to 30 percent of our members would receive a little bit more money at promotion.”

“But that would be paid for by the rest of us having our salaries cut,” Thompson said. “That’s not mutually pleasing or beneficial, it’s an attempt to divide the union by rewarding one group but then punishing the other group, and one group is going to pay for the raises of the other.”

Specifics of the contract proposal that Lindemann and Thompson mentioned were problematic were the restructuring of minima and the promotion system, which they said would result in significant decreases in earning potential for UPI members.

“Right now the minima structure is a system in which the appropriate salary for a specific job and the number of years in that job are established,” Lindemann said. When an individual moves up through their career path, there is a minimum standard for that person’s salary. With the altered minima structure and with salary reductions still in place in the proposal, Lindemann said that buying power continuously decreases year after year when employed at Western.

“Inflation will be two or three percent for this year, so not only did faculty and advisers take a three percent cut this year, but also inflation is going to be an additional percent off, so you essentially lose six percent of your buying power.”

This, according to Thompson, does not put faculty members in a position to want to stay at Western, and results in people leaving the university.

“Most people who are resigning are resigning because they get jobs elsewhere, they are the new faculty that have the new ideas and techniques and create the new classes,” Thompson said. “When all of those people keep resigning your curriculum ages quickly and you have a disruptive workplace where you constantly have to search for new faculty.”

UPI did find one positive in the newest on the record proposal, as Western has taken furloughs, mandatory unpaid time off, out of their proposal. Thompson said this shows that progress has been made even though the results are not satisfactory.

“I think that pressure has increased and as a result of that we have seen some movement from the other side. We have been coming up with ideas to meet their requests and for the longest time they didn’t budge and hoped we would meet their demands.”

With two mediated sessions still planned this month, UPI and Western will continue negotiations through February. After that, mediation could continue, or a number of other options, including a strike, could occur.

While Thompson said that a strike isn’t desired, their picket demonstrates they can and will if necessary.

“The more believable that it is that we will strike, the more believable it is that we will come to a resolution in the bargaining process, because a strike is something that nobody wants,” Thompson said. “But if one side does not believe the other side will strike, they don’t have a lot of incentive to move.”

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‘All stick, no carrot’ UPI and supporters picket Western contract offerings