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GSU faculty and staff continue working without contracts as negotiations bog down

Special to the Chronicle

The fall semester at Governors State University is nearing its end, but negotiations between the administration and the union representing faculty and staff seem to be far from conclusion.

GSU’s members of University Professionals of Illinois (GSU-UPI), Local 4100, have been bargaining for a new contract since June. The previous contract expired on Aug. 15, but union members have continued to work through the semester.

Members of GSU-UPI are hoping to reach a deal without interrupting the goals of the students.


According to a statement from GSU-UPI representative Chris Tweddle, “We have no plans to hold a strike authorization vote before the end of the year. We intend to continue to bargain in good faith as long as we are making progress toward a fair and equitable contract. The next steps are to continue with public actions to put pressure on the administration to make real concessions towards an agreement.” 

Representatives for the union and the administration met on Monday, Dec. 5, for another “uneventful” bargaining session. While the administration has been receptive to some of the faculty and staff’s requests, the teams have been unable to reach an agreement on salary, benefits, and workload. Bargaining is expected to stall over Christmas break and resume in January.

Salary continues to be a key sticking point. After originally requesting raises of 10% for the first year and 7% for the remaining years of the three-year contract, GSU-UPI has incrementally lowered the ask to 8% for the first year of the contract and 6% for the remaining years. The highest counteroffer from the administration’s bargaining team has been a 2.5% raise for the first two years of the contract and a 2.25% increase in salary for the final year. 

Faculty and staff cite high inflation and increases in cost-of-living expenses, along with their agreement to less than amicable contracts in the past, as the reasons for their persistence this time around.

The faculty and staff also have voiced a need to make the salaries at GSU more congruent with those of neighboring schools and similar state universities. Some union employees reported being “lowballed” at their initial hiring. 

The GSU-UPI team has identified a need to raise the minimum salaries for some positions. They said that this is a move that will make the university’s hiring process more effective in the long run and also help to deter valuable GSU community members from leaving for greener pastures.

Another sticking point in the contract negotiations is the establishment of a more manageable workload for faculty and staff at GSU. Some union members, especially those in the advising department, have reported that the students at GSU could be better served if they had additional help. Adjustments to the number of students that each advisor serves and established thresholds for acquiring additional support have been proposed.

GSU-UPI members are asking to increase paid maternity leave for new parents to 30 days. Any complication with a birth would automatically qualify a parent for an additional 10 days of paid leave. The contracts that expired in August stipulated that an employee must work at GSU for six years to take advantage of this benefit. The current proposal from the union negotiators requests that employees would be eligible for fully paid maternity leave after one year of employment. The benefit also would cover adoptive and foster parents.

A comparison of average salaries among state university employees in Illinois shows that the pay at GSU may be low. The average salary for a faculty member at GSU is around $69,000 according to public data; the average salary for faculty at a four-year college in Illinois is just under $72,000. 

In comparison, GSU President Cheryl Green negotiated a contract that guarantees $272,000 annually with a bonus that is determined by the board. In the fiscal year 2021, that bonus was more than $33,000. Similar to most universities in Illinois, an overwhelming number of vice presidents and deans at GSU enjoy six-figure incomes.

Asked for a comment on the situation, Green said that “contract negotiations are only

proposed and discussed at the bargaining table during formal meetings. The administration is working hard to achieve an agreement in good faith and to avoid any disruption to students and campus operations. During my tenure as president of Governors State University, I have created numerous initiatives to promote employee well-being and productivity.”

UPI Local 4100, IFT, AFL-CIO represents faculty and staff from seven other colleges in the state of Illinois.

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