Esparza: College of Engineering should not be priority when AFSCME union works in unfair conditions

Recently, the Illinois Board of Higher Education approved a new College of Engineering at Illinois State University. This bill that was approved for $4.5 million.

I can see how this will make our university look better, but it is hard to wrap my head around this being passed when ISU does not pay a living wage to anybody.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union is still working vigorously under an expired and unfair contract.

A majority of these union members are workers who work on university grounds and cannot afford to buy groceries on the wages they are given.

So, hearing that approval for a multi-million engineering school is occurring when AFSCME Local 1110 members have been working in unlawful and underpaid conditions does not sit right with me.

The university has been making claims that they have been in negations since June 2021, when the contract ended.

However, the only thing the university has done to attempt to help workers was to issue the workers $500 stipends– which is only about one week’s worth of wages.

So again, my question falls to how can we approve a new College of Engineering when students and workers who work on campus are suffering?

The union has lost nearly three dozen workers throughout contract negotiations because those workers needed a job that paid them right and treated them fairly.

This has now caused the union to have a heavier workload for the employees that are still there because of understaffing.

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a labor union is an organization of workers formed for the purpose of advancing its member’s interests in respect to wages, benefits and working conditions.

The university is doing the opposite of what labor unions pride and value themselves on. These workers should not have to fight for basic workers’ rights.

It should also be emphasized to the university while a new College of Engineering will probably bring in huge revenue people’s lives, workers’ rights matter.

Right now, the university is failing to tackle these issues head-on and workers are suffering every day because of it.

All workers deserve fair wages and fair working conditions. This issue has been put off far too long and we should be focusing on making people’s lives easier to live.

SANDRA ESPARZA is a News and Features Reporter for The Vidette. Esparza can be contacted at Follow Esparza on Twitter at @esparzasandra21.  

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March 25, 2022 at 01:56PM

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