Western Courier

UPI marches to mediation: Western and UPI “close” to tentative agreement

Elizabeth+Swan+speaks+to+the+crowd+prior+to+the+march+to+mediation.
Elizabeth Swan speaks to the crowd prior to the march to mediation.

Elizabeth Swan speaks to the crowd prior to the march to mediation.

Nicholas Ebelhack / Editor-in-Chief

Nicholas Ebelhack / Editor-in-Chief

Elizabeth Swan speaks to the crowd prior to the march to mediation.

Nicholas Ebelhack, editor-in-chief

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University Professionals of Illinois (UPI) Local 4100 Members met at Dividends Cafe outside of Stipes Hall Monday to “March to Mediation,” in which UPI members and supporters walked to their latest mediated negotiation session in unison through campus.

The march, which ended outside of the University Union along C.T. Vivian Way, follows a vote to authorize a strike from earlier this month. Contract negotiations between UPI and the Western Illinois University Administration, which have been ongoing since December 2016, have been in federal mediation since the fall semester as sides have yet to come to a contract agreement. However, UPI and Western jointly announced that they said they were close to a tentative agreement in a press release from University Relations last night.

With signs demonstrating UPI’s determination to receive “a mutually beneficial contract,” numerous speakers took the bullhorn to speak to the crowd of union members, students and supporters.

Peter Cole, a professor in the department of history who specializes in labor and unions, spoke first to rally the crowd before the march began.

“For centuries to this day, employers have tried to pay us, workers, less than we deserve,” Cole said. “However we are the ones who create value. However it is only fair that we get a large share of it. For centuries, even at so-called non-profits, profits are made, at WIU they are called reserves. But really, that is money the administration chooses to save instead of paying us the money we deserve.”

In his speech, Cole cited that the university has money to spend on other endeavors, so it should have the money to spend on a fair contract.

“When we are told that our wages must be cut for the university,don’t believe it,” Cole said. “Instead the administration spent $435,000 on a new entryway. Instead they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers to delay and deny justice to dozens of our fellow WIU faculty who were laid off and have been suffering through years of arbitration.”

Emphasizing that their desire for a mutually beneficial contract has support from students, Cole spoke on why UPI members have selected their profession.

“We were all once students, we care about them because they are us,” Cole said. “We have chosen the teaching profession when we get paid less than we could because we care. We are all part of this movement, weakened by years of austerity and budget cuts we have stayed strong.”

On that idea, Thompson Hall Student Government Association (SGA) Senator and History Major Elizabeth Swan spoke on her experience as a second year student at Western.

“I have learned that as a university we are at some severe disadvantages when compared to our sister institutions. We don’t have state of the art facilities; we don’t walk onto our campus and wonder if we have walked into a Microsoft Headquarters or an IKEA.”

Swan then reflected on the recent SGA State of the Student address, titled “Why We Stay,” to emphasize why she came to stand in support with the UPI membership.

“Why do I choose to stay at Western Illinois University?” Swan said. “The truth is, looking out here today it is our incredible faculty that keep me staying at Western. The professors that I have had the pleasure having for classes have shown me the greatest value at our institution.”

The march began, making its way through the quad and up the stairs leading through the center of campus. More speakers and chants came later before UPI President Bill Thompson walked in to mediation.

In preparation for a potential strike, UPI leadership is hosting a series of strike training events over the next few days in Malpass library. Additionally, according to the union’s Facebook page, tomorrow in Waggoner 054 from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. UPI will be hosting a question and answer session for students who have questions about the possible strike.

However, according to a joint press release, a strike may not be in the university’s future. The two parties report that negotiations are coming to an end soon following the Monday’s negotiations.

“Following the April 23 mediation session, Western Illinois University and the University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100 are able to report that the two groups are close to reaching a tentative agreement, subject to finalizing the specific language contained within the new contract,” reads the press release. “Details will not be disclosed until the final language has been approved by both sides.”

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
UPI marches to mediation: Western and UPI “close” to tentative agreement