CHARLESTON — The union representing clerical and building service workers used the return of Eastern Illinois University students to campus Thursday to bring attention to its ongoing contract negotiations.
The union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 981, is seeking wage increases to offset the rising cost of living and insurance premiums, local president Renee Kerz said.
Since the group's last protest, which took place before the June meeting of the Eastern Illinois University Board of Trustees, a federal mediator has begun aiding communication between the union and EIU officials.
“The mediator is coming in to try and help us reach a middle ground,” said Renee Kerz, president of the local union.
The workers took a “hit” during the budget impasse in 2015, which caused layoffs and pay cuts. Several workers still have not been hired back after the layoffs.
“Eastern really was in real financial crisis and we understood that,” said Natalie Nagel, the AFSCME representative of local 981. “Now our folks have some ground to make up. A lot of them, probably the majority of them, are taking home less today than they did 10 years ago.”
“That was a big dent for employees on this campus,” said Kerz.
Attempts to contact the university officials Thursday for comment on the ongoing negotiations were unsuccessful.