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UIC Workers to Management: Quit Stalling!

by Joe Iosbaker |
May 16, 2007
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picket sign reads: John Loya: Bad Man on Campus
UIC workers protest in front of office of H.R. head, John Loya. (Fight Back! News)

Chicago, IL - When 80 union members marched on the Human Resources building at the campus of the University of Illinois – Chicago (UIC) May 11th, they had the name of who they were hunting for. “Are you listening, John?” asked Tracey Whitaker, a Patient Unit Clerk from the UI Hospital, and a member of Local 73 of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Sister Whitaker was yelling through a bullhorn to the windows above, directing her remarks to John Loya, the new Vice Chancellor for Human Resources. The workers were venting their frustration toward Loya and H.R. in general because of the lack of progress at the negotiating table.

3,000 employees at UIC and its sister school, the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) are without a contract, most for over eight months. There have been 13 negotiation sessions between the clerical and administrative workers with no real progress on wages, job erosion, and other issues. Technical employees had their negotiations delayed for months, and now management has come to them with a proposed 0% increase for the first year of their contract and no guaranteed increase for the life of the contract.

Food service and building service workers at UIUC also protested the same day on their campus. Negotiations there are also stalled and management is just enforcing rules in food services that they couldn’t get the workers to agree to at the table.

Finally, service and maintenance workers at UIC finished negotiating a new contract in the fall, but the university didn’t assign adequate personnel to the task of calculating their back pay. As a result, those workers have had to wait an extra six months.

“John Loya: Bad Man on Campus”

The workers picket signs read “John Loya: Bad Man on Campus.” This was sparked by a front page story in the Chicago Sun Times exposing cronyism at UIC. Entitled “Bad Man on Campus,” it was about a man named Thomas Morano had been working as a $62,000 a year garage foreman for 10 years. He had lied on his job application to cover up a felony conviction for attempted murder, yet he was allowed to keep his job because of patronage.

Morano is protected by Mayor Daley’s brother, John Daley, the Democratic Party Committeeman for the Bridgeport neighborhood where the Daley’s came from. Morano’s history of violence continues. He was charged one and a half years ago with having over a dozen handguns in his house, including two that were loaded. Again, he managed to keep his job despite this crime.

A number of workers commented about this. Maria Alvarez, a member of the clerical workers bargaining committee, said, “Young men from my community never get this kind of second chance. If they make a mistake when they’re young, they can’t get hired. And if they lied on an application, they’d never work here again.” This was the same reaction many Black and Latino workers had to this story, as it showed the racist discrimination and national oppression that continues to impact their communities.

Jeff Dexter, the chief negotiator for Local 73’s contracts at UIC, spoke to the gathered workers. “This administration doesn’t care about the workers here. They claim to be concerned about student safety, as we all are in the wake of the murders at Virginia Tech last month. They claim to be doing the best by their employees. By protecting this violent felon, they’ve brought into doubt their concern about student safety.”

As for the claim to care about the workers here, this was answered when the union members chanted, “What do we want? RESPECT! When do we want it? NOW!”