Strike impending at SSU

By Sabryna Cornish

If faculty and staff at Sangamon State University do go on strike, it won’t be a knee-jerk decision.

The disgruntled employees began negotiations with SSU officials and the Board of Regents, which governs SSU, in June. They have been working without a contract since then.

In September, faculty and SSU officials reached an impasse—”there is no more room to move on either side of the table,” an SSU Union newsletter stated.

SSU officials made their first and last offer for faculty increases on Sept. 6.

Mitch Vogel, president of the University Professionals of Illinois, warned the Illinois Board of Higher Education at its Oct. 2 meeting that “faculty and staff salaries, which a decade and a half ago were above national norm, are now consistently below.”

SSU faculty filed notice to strike Oct. 12 after notifying the Illinois Labor Education Relations Board and the Board of Regents.

The SSU faculty union negotiating team requested a meeting with Regents Chancellor Roderick Groves on Oct. 16.

Then, representatives from the University Professionals of Illinois and the SSU administration met with a federal mediator.

Faculty and union workers held a rally Oct. 17 and protested Board of Regents salary increases.

Since SSU President Durward Long left for China, the Board of Regents is in charge, Vogel said. The board is “not seen as a solution to the problem but the problem,” he said.

There have been five negotiation sessions since Oct. 18. The administration bargaining team released a statement Tuesday stating there has been significant progress “in reducing the differences between the UPI and the administration during the past two weeks,” said Cheryl Peck, assistant to Groves.

“It’s my understanding there will be a vote in the next 24 hours to set a date for the strike,” said David Starrett, Illinois Student Association Executive Director. “It’s possible that the date could be immediately.”

The ISA is “very supportive of faculty efforts to get better salaries,” Starrett said.

“We (the ISA) wouldn’t be turning our backs on them now,” he said. “The fight for better benefits is a fight for retaining better faculty.”

Starrett said the ISA will “exert additional pressure to get the negotiations done,” he said.

“We don’t want a strike because it will mess up students’ graduation dates and classes, but if it happens, we’ll support the faculty,” he said.

The SSU student senate has been silent on the issue, Starrett said.