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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

AFSCME Local 963 voices concern for working conditions

President Freeman issues 2024 University Goals
Altgeld Hall stands in the distance on a clear snowy day. Campus Dining Services and Building Services workers voiced their concerns during the public comment section of the Board of Trustees meeting on Dec. 7. (Northern Star File Photo)

DeKALB – Disappointed public comments from staff of Campus Dining Services and Building Services started Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Manny Diaz, a building service worker, took to the mic to protest a denied request to stay as a custodial staff at Barsema Hall. 

Diaz said the concept of “Team Cleaning,” introduced within Building Services, took away the bidding right of custodial staff to pick where they worked on campus.

“All I’m asking is that with that ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accommodation that I have applied for, that my doctor recommended I remain in a consistent work environment so that my body doesn’t deteriorate more than what it is,” Diaz said.

Staff from campus dining services shared similar stories of being denied accommodations while seeing no benefits from their many years at NIU.

Tina Montavon, a culinary worker for Campus Dining Services, voiced her disappointment in the university’s lack of competitive wages. 

Montavon said, that after five years of service, she is paid “only a few cents more” than a new employee.

“The fast food restaurants in our area are offering a higher starting rate than you (NIU) are,” Montavon said. “Think about that as our economy continues to rise, raise prices on groceries, gas and utilities. Our wages here at NIU are not rising in comparison and you need to change that.”

Montavon continued that she applied for a higher position from her current culinary position.

“I lost my seniority when I transferred to a culinary position two, position,” Montavon said. “All that experience didn’t count; I had to start over.”

Vice President of the AFSCME Local 963 and NIU culinary three cook, Jason Williams, advocated for Campus Dining staff who could not be present at the meeting. 

Like Diaz, Williams spoke about a similar accommodation request that was denied for a co-worker he knew who has cancer.

“When she filed for FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act), she was denied because she was about one week short of the hours required to be eligible for FMLA,” Williams said.

Williams criticized the university for its negligence.

“Let me be clear, when an employee that has a dedicated 13 years of their life to NIU is diagnosed with cancer, we expect NIU to take care of them to the best of their ability,” Williams said. “Something desperately needs to change at Northern Illinois University.”


President Lisa Freeman outlined the university’s goals for 2024. The goals were centered around NIU’s Strategic Action Planning Framework which highlighted academic excellence, student retention, university engagement and several other future milestones.

In addition to the recognitions, the board approved a laundry list of construction projects.

  • Huskie Stadium Brigham Field Artificial Turf Replacement: $1.1 million
  • Chick Evans Field House Tennis Facility Upgrades Phase II: $380,000 
  • DeKalb Campus 2024 Roof Repairs: $2 million
  • Chilled Water Plant Chiller #4 Overhaul: $400,000
  • Cell Tower Land Lease (NIU as Lessor): $500,000 over a potential 50-year term
  • Stevenson Towers Wireless Network Expansion and Upgrade: $750,000
  • Internet Exchange Point Land Lease (NIU as Lessor): $20,000
  • Officer Safety Equipment Refresh: maximum of $775,000

“We will hold ourselves accountable for achieving outcomes that are consistent with NIU’s mission, vision and values, as well as our unwavering dedication to inclusive excellence and student success,” Freeman said.


The board awarded two honorary doctorates to award-winning composer Chinary Ung and WGN-TV Meteorologist Tom Skilling. Ung will receive an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters, while Skilling will be awarded an honorary doctorate in Science.

The Metropolitan Alliance Of Police, Chapter 675, also saw its collective bargaining agreement for the position of police telecommunicator approved. The agreement applies to six current employees and will begin Jan. 1 and continue until June 30, 2026.

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