UIUC service workers backed by their union, SEIU Local 73, gathered this afternoon to protest the university’s refusal to give them full back pay. In 2021, workers and the union discovered that around 150 building service workers (BSW) in two departments had been underpaid for months, and in some cases for years. After talks between workers and the university led to UIUC’s acknowledgement of the issue and their promise to fulfill the back pay in due time. However, when the university provided a list of the back pay they’ve made thus far, SEIU Local 73 discovered that not all the affected BSWs received the full payment, only partial ones from November 2020 to December 2021.
“I just want this taken care of as quickly as possible,” said Brendan Gamble, a Building Service Worker. Most of the workers impacted were shorted significant amounts of money, and some of them have received an initial payment from the university of $600. They are, however, still owed more. In the most extreme cases, workers are owed an additional $2,000, which goes back more than six years. “With so many resources at their disposal, it shouldn’t be much of a hardship for the university to fix this issue.”
As part of the protest, workers held signs that read “Wage Theft!” as they circled ARC 201 E Peabody, the location where union members have seen the highest stolen wages. “It took 18 months of constant effort by employees to get just one year of back pay,” said Building Service Worker Kurt Henke. “It just kinda sums up how management cares little about union employees.”
In response to the university’s refusal to provide full back pay, SEIU Local 73 has contacted the Illinois State Department of Labor and has filed a contractual grievance. Workers also plan to rally next Tuesday, February 22, in order to demand dignity and respect at the bargaining table, as negotiations between the university and Local 73 continue.