University of Illinois janitors, cooks strike to earn as much as profs
3 months, 1 week ago By Benjamin Yount, Illinois Watchdog
Janitor Dale Ramer says $18 an hour isn't enough
URBANA — Students at Illinois’ flagship university are being told to clean up after themselves.
Janitors and cooks — all members of the Service Employees International Union — walked off the job and onto the picket line Monday. Nearly 800 building service workers and food service workers at the University of Illinois are striking over pay, benefit and job-protection issues.
The strike is about respect and a “fair” wage, the workers say.
“If (the university) can’t offer us what they have offered somebody else, they have no respect,” said Dale Ramer, a janitor on the picket line Monday who says $18 an hour is not enough.
Ramer is upset that faculty members and university administrators are “getting more” than him. Ramer said he makes $34,000 a year as a janitor, and will receive a taxpayer supported pension if he works to age 55.
“If somebody makes $100,000 a year and gets a 3 percent raise, that’s $3,000,” Ramer said. “But I only make $34,000. So I’m not getting much. Only $1,000.”
Janitors like Ramer start at $12.47 an hour, and jump to $17.09 an hour after two years, according to Elyne Cole, associate provost for Human Resources at the U of I’s Champaign-Urbana campus. The university is offering to increase that pay by $1.05 over three years.
“The university has the money,” said Rickey Baldwin an organizer for SEIU who was leading a picket line. “They are just choosing not to spend it on these workers.”
But it is not just pay. Baldwin said the union is furious the university continues to allow students to get part-time jobs cleaning buildings or serving food.
“Those are our folks that are not getting that work,” Baldwin said. “The university has promised time and time again that they would stop doing it. And they continue to do it.”
“I think there needs to be more of a collaboration between the union and managerial services,” Hurley said as he waited for the bus on campus. “No one wants to have a strike. No one wants to go without pay.”
Michelle Anderson joined her fellow janitors on a cold street corner to carry a sign. She could not define a fair wage or offer an opinion on the issues of the strike, but she knew that she would be on the picket line.
“Honestly, I don’t really understand the whole logistics of (the strike),” Anderson said. “I just knew going to work today would have been a huge mistake.”
SEIU has said it will stay on strike until Wednesday. The university said it would work to make sure the strike does not affect campus operations, but Cole made it clear that workers who walk the picket line would not be paid.