SEIU Local 73 members will strike as long as it takes, don’t like current offers

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Workers from the University of Illinois College of medicine striking back Friday at three campuses for fair pay and better wages.

Friday marks the fifth day of over 4000 SEIU Local 73 members striking across the state against the University of Illinois College of Medicine asking for pay raises and respect. Members say current offers they’ve received aren’t fair and will picket as long as it takes.

Five days and agreement, members of the SEIU Local 73 Union refusing to work without a new contract at the University of Illinois College of Medicine Peoria. Kira Healey, an office manager at the Peoria campus said it’s tiring.

“Obviously it’s been extremely frustrating standing out here for five days and continuously hearing negotiations have failed,” Healey said.

Members of the union who work at the university said months of negotiations have been low and the university officials aren’t considering a rise in the cost of living. Healey says many increases have only been on or two percent.

“It’s been very disheartening to know that we’re being disrespected in such a way that we can’t be afforded a basic cost of living so that we can stop making choices like choosing between paying a bill and purchasing groceries,” Healey said.

Marie Smith, a Certified Medical Assistant (CMA) said there’s definitely been a rise in the cost of living and is frustrated with the university.

“That doesn’t cut laundry detergent. Laundry detergent is 20 bucks yet they only want to give us a 1% raise,” Smith said.

Smith said she and many others don’t want to be striking and miss their patients and co-workers.

“I miss the people that I take care of. I miss the doctors that I work for. I don’t want to be out here, but Ill stay out here,” Smith said.

They say they will be out picketing as long as it take to get an agreement that they and the university can agree upon.

“I’ll be out here Monday morning. Hopefully I don’t have to be. Hopefully the chancellor will get his behind in gear and do his job,” Smith said.

“I would stay out here as long as it takes. What we’re fighting for is a basic standard of living,” Healey said.

Smith said it’s a team effort to get respect and equal pay that they say they deserve. She said if she retired, she’d be fine, but it’s about making sure future workers get fair pay.

“Its the family, the union. Just the people I work with and care about,” Smith said “I’m not doing it just for me, I am doing for everyone of these people.”

They said many employees must be certified or have college degrees and what the university pays them isn’t enough.

“People coming in with bachelors degrees and making 12 bucks an hour is not something you can support a family on,” Healey said.

The university is continuing to negotiate with union members and as of Thursday, both sides have yet to agree.

University officials sent a statement saying quote:

“We have been meeting with SEIU for 10-14 months, depending on the contract dates for each unit – a total of more than 40 bargaining sessions among the four units. However, union leadership has not shown a willingness to compromise. SEIU negotiators presented the exact same proposal as Sunday, while UIC presented a number of concessions during yesterday’s bargaining session.” — Michael Amiridis, Chancellor Robert Barish, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs John Coronado,Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Michael Zenn, Chief Executive Officer, University of Illinois Hospital & Clinics

“The University and UI Health will not take any disciplinary action against employees for choosing to participate in a legal strike or job action. Likewise, the union is prohibited from using intimidation to force any employee to join a strike or not cross a picket line. We want to remind everyone that employees may choose whether to work or to participate in a strike –it’s a decision that each employee needs to make for themselves. Employees who choose not to work will not be paid during the time that they are on strike. The exceptions are pre-approved FMLA, military or vacation leave.” — Michael Amiridis, Chancellor Robert Barish, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs John Coronado,Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Michael Zenn, Chief Executive Officer, University of Illinois Hospital & Clinics

SEIU Local 73 has set up a hardship fund for the striking workers that will give each strike participant $50 a day and $250 a week. It’s maximum of $250 a week and maximum of $550 in total until money runs out.

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