NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — Not being able to reach an agreement with the university, Illinois State University workers have announced they intend to strike.

More than 300 campus dining, grounds, and building service workers have issued a 10-day notice of their intent.

In a meeting held March 25 by union AFSCME Local 1110, 96% of employees voted to authorize the bargaining committee to call a strike if necessary. 

ISU students and faculty count on these workers to prepare food, wash dishes and floors, clean restrooms and classrooms, shovel snow, maintain the Quad, and more, according to a press release.

“We were stunned that management barely moved in bargaining today,” said building service worker Chuck Carver, the president of AFSCME Local 1110. “They seem totally indifferent to the potential disruption of a strike.

Employees say they deserve livable wages and respect on the job. Workers say pay is so low that ISU struggles to retain workers or hire new ones—forcing those who remain to do double or triple their usual work—yet management’s proposals continue to lag inflation and barely stay ahead of the minimum wage.

“Where we go from here depends on ISU administration, from President Kinzy and the Board of Trustees on down,” Carver added. “They can pay us fairly and settle a contract that’s good for everyone, or they can force a strike that will hurt students, faculty, and staff. It’s up to them. We know that for ISU to be a great place to learn it has to be a good place to work, and we’re going to fight for it.”

Filing a strike notice with the state Labor Relations Board was the next step required by law before a work stoppage could occur. The employees’ union bargaining committee delivered the notice to university management at the parties’ negotiating session in Normal today.

Under the law, employees could now strike as soon as Monday, April 18, if an agreement is not reached. Another bargaining session is scheduled for tomorrow.

ISU officials made the following statement regarding the decision:

On Thursday, April 7, 2022, at the beginning of the first scheduled session with a federal mediator, the Union provided the University with a Notice of Intent to Strike that would allow the Union to engage in a strike on or after April 18, 2022. This is a disappointing development, as the Union served this Notice before attempting mediation and as the parties had continued to make progress at our last bargaining session prior to mediation.

Illinois State remains committed to ongoing good-faith negotiations and is hopeful that the parties will be able to reach an agreement without a strike. The parties have one additional mediation session scheduled for April 8, and the University has advised both the Union and the Federal mediator that the University is willing to schedule more mediation sessions should they prove necessary. In an abundance of caution, the University has initiated contingency planning activities to ensure the ability to minimize disruption should a strike occur.