SSU ripe for strike: some refuse to picket

By Vickie Snow

About 10 teachers at Sangamon State University told union officials Monday they will cross picket lines to hold classes if their colleagues strike.

Employees at the Springfield university could walk out within the next few days, effectively shutting down the school. Still, the professors do not want to hurt the students’ educations.

Mitch Vogel, president of the University Professionals of Illinois, would neither confirm nor deny that a strike is imminent.

“The fact that (I was reached) at this office shows it’s not happening now,” Vogel said in a phone interview from Chicago.

The union met with SSU employees Monday to discuss a strike date. At least two similar meetings were held in the past.

Vogel said the media will be notified if a strike begins. Also, Vogel, who would not give any possible beginning dates, said the strike would not start today because of the elections.

SSU professors, secretaries, janitors and cafeteria workers are seeking higher salaries and contract terms involving policies and union rights. The union’s contract ran out in June.

Last week, the Board of Regents gave SSU its “last and best offer” of a 2 percent salary increase. SSU is seeking increases of 9 to 11 percent.

UPI Local 4100, representing more than 165 teachers, received the authority to strike any time at a meeting last Wednesday. The union also then rejected the contract offered by the Regents.

The university will shut down if all the employees walk out, Vogel said. However, the 10 professors represent only 5 percent of SSU’s faculty.

SSU student Diana Turowski said a strike “would be detrimental for students” and she is against such action.

Turowski, the director of SSU’s Student Association, said the SA has not taken any formal action on the situation, but SSU Student Regent James Smylie is “talking with both sides and trying to convince them to solve the situation without a strike.”

The Regents govern SSU, NIU and Illinois State University in Normal.