The IEA unions (FA, NTT-FA, ACsE, GA United) held a joint news conference today to announce that they had filed a "Intent to Strike" notice.
These notices will, once the ten day period called for by law passes, remove the last legal hurdle before a strike could be called. A democratic hurdle remains: votes of the membership of each local, and no such votes have been scheduled. As a matter of substance the filing isn't a surprise--anyone paying much attention would know that the unions were not going to simply keep quiet after the administration imposed its terms. The filing of this notice is really the least they could do to make their opposition to the administration's attempt to unilaterally dictate terms that should be negotiated and agreed to by both sides. But of course uttering the word "strike" in public raises the ante. Let us hope it leads the administration to start negotiating in earnest and work together with the unions resolve the outstanding issues sooner rather than later.
More information on this notice and the current state of negotiations (or rather the absence of negotiations, save for some nugatory talks with the GA union) will be available at the joint union meeting on Monday at 4:45 in Lawson 141. The FA will hold a general meeting of its own on Tuesday May 10 at 5:30 at the Carterville IEA office at 500 E. Plaza Dr. Directions to that office and the text of the announcement after the break.
Directions to the Carterville IEA office: Turn left from 13 onto Division Street in Carterville (traffic light at the MotoMart and Dairy Queen) and then turn immediately to the right along the frontage road (Plaza Drive) and continue past the Dairy Queen, McDonald's, and the Marion Eye Center. The IEA office is in the same building as the KFVS-12 office in Carterville, just a few doors east. KFVS-12 has a big sign on the building. IEA is listed on the sign at the street. You can park in the lot in front of this building or in the lot behind the building.
Joint statement from the IEA locals:
Today each of these four local associations completed, signed and mailed out "Notice of Intent to Strike" forms to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, the Regional Superintendent of Jackson and Perry Counties and representatives of the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees. This is a procedural requirement of the Labor Act in order for these locals to consider a strike action. With the completion of this requirement, any one or all of these local associations could choose to call a strike on the SIUC campus after a waiting period of 10 days.
No strike is scheduled at this time. Before a strike of any local association could or would be called, this job action must first be approved by a vote of its general membership. The membership of each of the unions will have the final say as to whether or not a strike occurs for that particular union. Each union will make its own independent decision.
What does all this mean?
The intent behind the notices is two-fold for each of the unions: 1) we want to get the Board of Trustees bargaining teams back at the table and negotiating in good faith, and 2) we want to encourage our employer to bring fair and reasonable proposals so we can reach acceptable agreements and conclude the negotiations for new multi-year successor contracts. At this late date in the negotiations, it's essential that all parties work diligently toward fair settlements.
This decision means that after months of negotiations, each of the four local associations on campus has become utterly frustrated and disillusioned with the contempt and rigidity of Board representatives - and that we have no other choice than to head down a road that asserts our legal rights to take action when confronted with impasse, imposed terms and vetoes of our legitimate needs.
When the administration imposes terms on the faculty, staff and graduate assistants without fair negotiations, it drives a wedge between us that divides and demoralizes the campus community. The top-down administrative strategy of unilateralism doesn't serve any positive purpose. It creates a bad atmosphere that is not conducive to quality or creating a good learning environment for students.
You can't solve a problem if one side chooses to impose its position without compromise. That leaves the other party with the sole option of taking its own unilateral action.
Since the very beginning of negotiations, each local association has attempted to work out differences with the university in a collaborative and thoughtful way that leads to goodwill and better campus relations. Our goal is fairness to the faculty, graduate assistants, staff, and the university community as a whole. Each of these local associations represents dedicated employees who are devoted to making SIUC the best university it can be. We serve the students and we are integral parts of the SIUC community - the economic engine of Southern Illinois.
But we have been met with stubborn resistance and unwillingness to compromise at every step of the way.
Now, in its latest missive of disrespect toward us, the administration has unilaterally imposed its terms and conditions of employment on the unions without giving full effort to reaching acceptable agreements. This failure to reach fair, mutual agreements has left us with no other choice than to protect our legal right to strike in the event a strike becomes necessary.
It is our sincere hope that a strike on campus will not be necessary. It is our desire to get all parties back to the bargaining table so fair, mutually acceptable agreements can be negotiated. We remain ready, willing and able to negotiate to reach fair agreements. We can report that prior to today's actions we reached out to the administration in the hope of resuming negotiations before now. Those efforts have resulted in a formal response that the administration shares our view that new bargaining sessions must be scheduled, but as yet no new dates for bargaining have been set.
What is unclear at this time is whether the resumption of bargaining sessions signals a true change from the administration's hard line approach of the past year or whether the return to the table will be just a smokescreen for continued unilateral action.
Time will tell.