Union president voices concerns at BOT meeting

By David Matz and Allyson Martin

DeKAlb- At Thursday morning’s Board of Trustees meeting Darlene Seilheimer, union president for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 963 Building Services, voiced her concerns regarding their negotiations with the university.

Seilheimer gave a five-minute presentation to the board as well as the assembled crowd, and according to Seilheimer, the negotiations have been going on for too long and both sides would benefit from reaching an agreement.

“We are trying, most diligently, to negotiate with the university for a fair and reasonable contract,” she said.

The AFSCME Local 963 union represents about 300 building and food service workers at NIU and the Lorado Taft Field Campus. The union and NIU have been in negotiations since the collective bargaining agreement ended in June.

Steve Cunningham, associate vice president of Administration and Human Resource Services, said in a Oct. 27 Northern Star article that he believes progress is being made and “both parties are negotiating in good faith,” but that a resolution will “take a while longer” to reach.

Seilheimer said the university was only offering to maintain the status quo and was not offering any additional pay increases or any benefits on other non-economic issues.

“We are still disagreeing about non-economic, basic respect issues,” she said.

Union contract negotiations can concern changes to compensation, grievance procedures, or union rights, among other aspects of the agreement.

NIU President John Peters appreciates the communications and efforts made by the union, said Brad Hoey, team leader for Media Relations and Internal Communications.

“An agreement is always reached, it just takes negotiations,” Hoey said. “Dialogue is meant for the negotiating discussions.”

With no apparent end in sight, Seilheimer claimed the union would not give in to university demands.

“Local 963 is going to continue fighting for a fair and reasonable contract,” she said.

If the initial negotiations prove to be unsuccessful, a mediator will be brought in to assist the two parties reach an agreement at no charge to the university. It is ultimately the responsibility of the union and the university to reach an agreement, however.

At the end of the meeting Peters introduced the Vision 2020 Steering Committee.

Peters will chair the committee along with Executive Vice President and Provost Ray Alden and Executive Vice President and Chief of Operations Eddie Williams will serve as vice chair. The committee is comprised of 38 members from all areas of the university like faculty, students, staff, alumni and donors at NIU, Peters said.

The committee’s main purpose is to ensure the success and progress of the Vision 2020 Initiative. The steering committee will develop strategies and benchmarks in order to guide progress and successfully achieve the goals of the Vision 2020 Initiative.

Peters first announced the initiative at his State of the University address at the beginning of the semester. The initiative focuses on making important changes in the landscape and organization of the university to make it one of the most student-centered universities among other schools in the region.

Peters said the new committee is broken up into seven work groups that focus on the major issues the initiative is trying to change. The work groups focus on setting benchmarks and to keep the overall progress of the initiative on track in order to achieve its goals.

The Board of Trustees also voted on increasing their Blackboard accounts by $115 in order to purchase the mobile version of the website.