Faculty and staff at Governors State University went on strike on Tuesday, April 11. The action comes after negotiations that began last summer stalled.
Union members picketed near the university’s main entrance and then rallied outside of the university’s administrative offices. They were joined by fellow members of University Professionals of Illinois from Chicago State University and Eastern Illinois University. GSU is the third university in this group to strike.
The presidents of all three university unions spoke at the noon rally attended by an estimated 200 people.
All the speakers at the hour-long rally stressed their concern for the students, repeatedly making the point that failure to provide funds for salaries and facilities diminishes students’ ability to receive a superior education. They pointed to the administrative offices and called on GSU President Cheryl Green to negotiate adequate salaries.
Mike Hart, president of GSU-UPI, spoke about how hard it is to make ends meet on a GSU salary. He also asked how he would have time to work a second job when most of his free time was focused on teaching students.
“We did everything we could to avoid a strike today,” Hart said.
He told the crowd that the GSU administration ended the last bargaining meeting with the knowledge that a strike was the next step. Hart said he was willing to negotiate over the Easter weekend, but the administration was not.
Valerie Goss, president of the union at EIU, spoke about the need to speak up when something isn’t right.
“We are all here today working together and helping each other,” said Goss. “Don’t give up.”
Carla Johnson, an advisor at GSU, spoke about the workload issue in that department.
“We work all day long and when we get home, we turn on our computers,” Johnson said. One of the remaining conflicts in the negotiation process includes the number of students an advisor can serve effectively.
Several GSU students spoke up at the rally in favor of their professors’ right to a fair contract.
“For someone attempting to get a degree, it comes down to the people who help them,” said Kelly Pickert, a GSU criminal justice student. “Those people are the professors and staff at GSU. They are the ones that care about us.”
According to the GSU website, students are expected to attend classes as scheduled during the walkout. The university indicated that it would be finding temporary replacements for striking professors.
With classes scheduled to end during the first week of May, it is unclear how the administration plans to finish classes and update grades in time for the commencement ceremony celebrating the graduating class of 2023.
The administration has not responded to a request for details on those issues.