UI finds others to perform workers' jobs

Published 03/11 2013 04:04PM

Updated 03/11 2013 06:28PM

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS -- As of midnight, more than 700 workers handed in their keys as they headed out the doors. They're not planning to go back to work for three days.

The majority of the UI's building and food service workers voted down a contract proposal this weekend. They said it wasn't good enough, but campus leader said it was the best they could do. WCIA-3's Anna Carrera has more on how the university is responding to the walk out.

School leaders are doing some shuffling to make ends meet with many workers picketing instead of cooking and cleaning. Union leaders said they'll keep walking until their message gets across.

"The university had been disrespecting these employees for way too long," said SEIU-73 field organizer Ricky Baldwin. 

That's why union members said they decided to go on strike. It's also why they're calling the situation on campus a "beautiful mess."

"Classrooms are trashed," said Baldwin. "Trashed rooms -- that's about what they are. There's dumpsters that are higher than my head built up, trash overflowing, stuff not being done, campus mail not being delivered."

The workers are picketing at about 20 places around UI. It's something school officials were hoping to avoid.

"We had come to a tentative agreement Friday and we were pretty disappointed that the union did not approve it," said University of Illinois spokesperson Robin Kaler. 

Now people who work other campus jobs are helping out. They're serving and preparing food, cleaning and doing other things union workers would usually do.

"We've just asked people to volunteer and people from all across campus have stepped forward and said, I want to help out," said Kaler.

Union representatives said a handful of members still went to work, but most stuck with the group. They said they're not going anywhere anytime soon.

"Everywhere there's a dock like this, a dining facility, place like that," said Baldwin. "We're here around the clock."

But leaders on both sides hope for the best after nine months of negotiations.

"We want to have our whole team here and we want to be functioning normally," said Kaler.

Leaders on both sides of the debate said they're willing to sit down and talk about the contracts. But so far, no day or time has been set for new negotiations.

Union workers said if university leaders give them a contract they can work with in the next 24-hours or so, they would consider ending the strike early. If not, they plan to continue the strike for a full three days.

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