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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

NIU, clerical union make deal addressing pay disparity

Northern Star File Photo
Members of the Local 1890 union sit in on a board of trustees meeting. The Local 1890 union members addressed pay compression and pay inversion in their new agreement. (Northern Star File Photo)

DeKALB – A new collective bargaining agreement was approved between NIU and union group Local 1890.

The new agreement covers issues regarding pay disparity between clerical employees and is set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2024.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1890 represents the clerical, administrative, paraprofessional and technical professional employees of NIU. 

Rave Meyer, president of Local 1890 said the organization has 509 members and is the largest non-faculty union on NIU’s campus.

“Pretty much anything that deals with students or administrators, we have a hand in,” Meyer said.

Negotiations began in April for a new collective bargaining agreement to replace the prior agreement that expired June 30. For the past five months union members have been working without a new agreement in place. 

On Nov. 9, the NIU Board of Trustees approved the new bargaining agreement. The new bargaining agreement is set to take effect Jan. 1 and last until June 30, 2025.

The main goals for this new agreement were to address pay compression, pay inversion and adding to base pay.

Members of Local 1890 that were polled said consistently that they wanted the pay compression and pay inversion addressed in this new agreement, according to Meyer.

Pay compression is when two employees could be working in the same division, at the same job and receive roughly the same pay regardless of if an employee has been at the job longer. 

Meanwhile, pay inversion means a new employee could be hired for the same job but receive a higher salary than an employee who has been there longer.

“Where is the loyalty?” Meyer said. “The reward for the loyalty for 10 years of service, if the brand new person can make $15.50 an hour than the person who has been here for 10 years. Why are they still here?”

There are employees in the union who have been at their positions between five years and 20 years and make between $15 to $16 an hour, Meyer said. To address this disparity, Local 1890 advocated for bonuses to the base pay of employees based on years of service.

Thirteen of the most populous job classifications for the union will have inversion addressed. Salaries for those positions will be adjusted, increasing them based on their hiring date.

Base pay for members will increase 5% for the fiscal year of 2024 and 3% for the 2025 fiscal year. Union employees will receive back pay to retroactively show this year’s pay increase. This back pay should be received before Dec. 15, Meyer said.

Issues regarding overtime and pay increases on promotions were also addressed in the new agreement.

Prior to the new agreement, union employees would only receive overtime pay if their hours exceeded their weekly quota, regardless if they worked overtime on a standard workday. 

With the new agreement, union employees will receive overtime if their work hours exceed either their daily or weekly quota.

Rather than receive an 8% increase in pay when moving up in classification, union members will receive a 10% increase in pay.

The starting rates for employees for civil service under the union will increase from $14 an hour to $16 an hour, according to Meyer.

“It’s a little bit of something, it’s a lot and it’s a little bit of something for everybody. But I call it a very good beginning,” Meyer said “There’s still a lot of work to be done, and we’ll work on that on our next contract, which will be in two years.”

The two tensest points of negotiation between Local 1890 and NIU were the points of pay inversion and adding to base pay, Meyer said.

In order to achieve some of Local 1890’s goals, compromises had to be made, including forgoing the memorandum of understanding for union members to have reduced costs to parking. Now union members have to pay the normal price for parking passes and in return for this being given up, the base pay would be increased.

NIU representatives said they could not discuss the negotiations but gave the Northern Star an official statement.

“Northern Illinois University’s Board of Trustees (BOT) approved a new two-year contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, Local 1890 (AFSCME) during a special meeting of the BOT on Thursday, Nov. 9,”  according to NIU’s official statement. “The university is always committed to bargaining in good faith as was the case with AFSCME in achieving a contract reflective of their membership and goals. We appreciate the contributions of our staff to student success and our university community.”

Jake DaSilva, a program assistant and union steward for Local 1890, said the issues about compression and inversion are about simple fairness.

“I think that getting this contract is a positive thing for the entire university community,” DaSilva said. “Things are settled. We can go back to doing the good work that we do. Serving the needs of the students and pressing forward with the mission of our university.”

One suggestion union members have is for the next agreement to include proper training for new hires DaSilva said. DaSilva has received concerns from union members that they are not being given adequate training to fulfill their duties. 

Local 1890 will keep in mind the proposals and needs of its members going into negotiations their eventual new agreement in April 2025, Meyer said.

“We’re looking for pay parity, better equity, better justice within the entire system,” Meyer said “We want our members to feel valued and appreciated in return for all of our loyalty, dedication and hard work because we are a Huskie family, and we would like to be thought of as all members of that family, as opposed to those who are outside the family and not treated as well.”

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