NORMAL — Three people accused Illinois State University of disrespect and failing to live up to its values while showing support of union workers at Friday's board of trustees meeting.
About 500 university employees who are members of Locals 1110 and 3236 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) have been working under a contract that expired 10 months ago.
Renee Nestler, an AFSCME Council 31 staff representative, told the board, “Morale is low among our members” and that requests for higher wages have been “met with disparaging remarks” and “disrespect.”
She said the university is investing in buildings and equipment, but not in people.
“It's clear ISU's priorities are wrong,” said Nestler.
ISU President Larry Dietz said after the meeting, “There are different pockets of money. Just because we have money for facilities projects doesn't mean we have money for staff.”
Dietz said he took notes during the public comment session, but that negotiating doesn't take place at board meetings. He said he had not heard of people being met with disrespect and said of the employees, “They do great work and we value what they do.”
The two locals represent clerical, library, building service, grounds and campus dining workers.
Tom Gerschick, an associate professor in the sociology and anthropology department, asked the board to find the money to increase pay for those workers.
He said some of the university's most vulnerable employees are “not being paid a living wage” and “that is not living up to the values of our institution.” He noted that there are full-time employees who need food stamps.
Trish Gudeman, a clerical worker in the same department, is one of those workers. She told the board she still makes less than $15 an hour after working at ISU for nearly seven years.
She said one of the complaints is a hiring range that sometimes results in newly hired workers making more money than more experienced employees. Gudeman said the union has put a plan together that would take seniority into account in setting pay.