Statement of Solidarity from the Graduate Employees’ Organization at UIUC

Statement of Solidarity with the Workers of SEIU Local 73 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“The Graduate Employees’ Organization at UIUC (IFT/AFT Local 6300) expresses our support and solidarity with the UIUC food and building service workers of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU Local 73), who recently voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike. We join them in demanding that the university negotiate in good faith and offer their employees fair and just compensation for the labor they provide to the UIUC community.

The workers represented by Local 73 keep our burgeoning campus functioning every day of the school year by feeding tens of thousands of students, staff, and faculty. They also keep university facilities clean and sanitary. Despite providing these crucial services, these workers are struggling to make ends meet because of chronically low-wages and under staffing issues. Since the university continues to cut corners and refuses to hire the appropriate amount of staff, some employees are doing the jobs of two or even three people.

We know that with the change in state government, the university was recently allocated a 5% increase in state funding. Yet as mediation begins, the university is offering SEIU workers a paltry raise of less than 1%. This is simply not enough to keep up with the rising cost of living, nor is it commensurate with the exceedingly hard work of the food and building service staff.

This impending strike represents another chapter in the struggles of low-wage workers across the country in industries such as fast food, janitorial services, child care, home healthcare and in the so-called “gig economy.” It also represents another example of the failure of the University of Illinois system administration to bargain fairly with its workers. As the Chicago Tribune reported, at least 10 unions in the University of Illinois system have been forced to either strike or authorize a strike since May of 2017. These people are courageously fighting not just for their right to a living wage, but also for their dignity, respect, and a voice on the job.

Even in the face of vehement union-busting and anti-worker legislation, workers continue to organize, continue to fight, and continue to win. We are confident that our fellow workers at SEIU Local 73 will secure victory, and the GEO will march alongside them towards a better future for themselves, their families, and the UIUC community we share.”

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