GoFundMe page draws criticism: Contract negotiation tensions carry over to social media

Nicholas Ebelhack, editor-in-chief

Contract negotiation tensions extended to social media last weekend as a GoFundMe.com page drew criticism from Western Illinois University employees.

Following the April 18 announcement of the University Professionals of Illinois local 4100 chapter strike authorization vote, which passed with 72 percent of voters voting in favor of authorization, a GoFundMe page was created and has been shared 90 times.

The page, found at www.gofundme.com/wiu-upi and created by Steven Frankel of Aurora, Ill. , is seeking donations to support the potential for a strike. While no donations have been received as of Sunday, the page has drawn criticism over Facebook, including Western’s Vice President of Advancement and Public Services Brad Bainter.

“I’m pretty low-key and as loyal and supportive of Western as anybody and hoping things work themselves out quickly,” Bainter wrote. “But after looking at the UPI GoFundMe page it’s time to start calling out the lies of the UPI ‘leadership.’”

Whereas the GoFundMe page claims that “The Administration at WIU is demanding salary cuts and other concessions from the faculty and staff Union that will drive away employees and hurt the quality of education and the economic situation of the entire Macomb community. At the same time, they have been giving themselves raises and refuse to take the same pay cuts they are asking of the Union.”

Bainter, however, wrote that the administration has made sacrifices that are overlooked by the UPI leadership, saying that UPI President Bill Thompson has made “an outright lie,” and claiming that the people who believe in the claims are “drinking the UPI Kool-Aid,” which he posted along with a picture of the Kool-Aid man.

“I didn’t get a raise last year and took 8 furlough days,” Bainter said. “I didn’t get a raise the year before that and I gave back 3 weeks pay in 3 months. Bill Thompson took a 3 percent raise that year as did the UPI membership. I’m happy to sacrifice for my alma mater but I’m not going to have my sacrifices – and those of hundreds of Western employees – belittled by Bill Thompson and the UPI.”

Thompson replied in the comments section of the post, stating that the administrators still received benefits during the last few fiscal years.

“This is public record,” Thompson said. “It’s in the budget. Simply compare budgeted salaries from year to year. Not every administrator received a raise. Nor did all faculty.”

The two continued to dispute each other in the comments section. The page drew criticism from other Western employees, including Associate Vice President of Student Services John Biernbaum.

“Dear Faculty propagating that Administration is taking raises. STOP IT!!! At best its uninformed. At worst it is an outright lie,” Biernbaum wrote in a Facebook post.

Negotiations will continue today, as the two sides will enter another negotiation session with a federal mediator. UPI intends to march to the mediation session from Dividends in Stipes Hall at 2 p.m., in addition to hosting a rally at the in the Quad Cities at Quad Cities Complex 2222 from 2 to 3 p.m.

Additionally, in preparation for the potential strike, UPI has planned a series of picket training sessions.

“We hope that Monday’s negotiations go well,” reads the UPI Facebook page, “but as we move forward we need to be prepared.”

The picket training sessions are planned for Tuesday through Thursday from 12:10 p.m. to 12:50 pm. in Malpass library, with additional sessions planned for 3:30 p.m. to 4:20 p.m. Tuesday in Malpass, 2 p.m. to 2:50 p.m. in Horrabin 7 on Wednesday, and 12:10 p.m. to 12:50 p.m. on Thursday in Malpass.