More than 600 NIU employees to unionize

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Office administrator Jennifer Jeffries works at her desk in the main offices of the Holmes Student Center. Jeffries and 600 NIU employees want “fair wages.”

By Keith Hernandez

Jennifer Jeffries said she loves her job as an office administrator and loves working with students, but $15.68 an hour makes her feel “undervalued.”

Low wages in comparison with other Illinois public universities are why she and more than 600 NIU employees formed a union. The group, consisting of clerical, technical, administrative and paraprofessional workers, filed a petition with the state labor board Wednesday to become certified, according to an American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees news release.

Their goal: to negotiate fair wages of union employees, most of which have not seen pay raises in five years, according to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

“Unless a union comes and helps negotiate what those pay rates are going to be, we have no way of increasing them or making them fair, so bringing in a union is the only way to bring them to the bargaining table,” Jeffries said.

NIU Spokesman Brad Hoey said administrators have known about the concerns of employees, but are able to do little because of a shrinking budget.

“There have been a number of different employees that have not received raises for several years,” Hoey said. “We do know this is a very important issue … and it’s something we plan to address here in the very near future.”

Administrators will hold a panel discussion to answer questions about employee concerns Sept. 2 in the Holmes Student Center, Carl Sandburg Auditorium