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UIC Human Resources Director Forced Out by Workers’ Struggle

By Joe Iosbaker |
October 14, 2010
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UIC workers march on October 7.
UIC workers march on October 7. (Fight Back! News)

Chicago, IL - For over a year, the University of Illinois-Chicago (UIC) has been the scene of intense struggle between the 2700 workers represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 and their employer. In the latest development, UIC’s Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares announced Oct. 10 that the director of Human Resources, John Loya, would step aside. He is being replaced by an assistant vice president from central administration in Urbana, Illinois.

John Loya came to UIC four years ago. Since he began as Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, he earned a reputation for being hostile to unions and civil service workers. Local 73, the largest union in the University of Illinois system, has fought several bitter contract fights since Loya arrived. Between April and July, workers voted to authorize a strike when negotiations with human resources broke down due to management’s failure to bargain in good faith.

Loya had been targeted by the union for his hostility. According to Randy Evans, a member of the service and maintenance bargaining committee and a 30-year employee in hospital environmental services, “Loya’s $240,000 a year salary was his reward for attacks on workers through speed ups, job cuts, layoffs, and bitter contract negotiations.” As far as Loya being pushed out as human resources director, Evans had only one question for the chancellor: “What took so long?”

In August, the union came right up to the verge of striking, but pulled back when management blinked. Under Loya’s direction, management negotiators had refused to budge from their positions, which included ignoring the employees’ demand for job security. At the 11th hour, the new president of the UI system, Mike Hogan, called the president of the union, Christine Boardman, to a meeting to prevent a strike.

With preparations for the strike on the first day of classes, Aug. 23, Hogan stepped in to take over negotiations. Hogan indicated a willingness to address workers’ concerns: job security against replacement of unionized civil service administrative staff, wage parity with the predominantly white work force in downstate Urbana and Springfield campuses and a fair contract with civil service anniversary raises, or ‘steps,’ to bring workers to the top of their pay grades before they reach retirement age, as well as modest annual contract raises.

Michelle Wright, a union steward in patient accounts, remarked, “Loya has been moved aside because he poisoned the relations with Local 73.” She added, “This is a victory for us. It clearly shows our strength.”

According to Maria Alvarez, a member of the clerical/administrative bargaining committee, the removal of Loya will help the union with the final stage of negotiations. Alvarez said, “With this victory, we continue, and we shall overcome the obstacles!”

Despite Hogan’s involvement and the role of a federal mediator, negotiations have not produced a contract yet. When bargaining resumed after the August strike deadline, union members gave management 30 days to come with a fair offer. On Oct. 7, in front of a rally of workers, students, graduate employees and faculty members, Local 73 vice-president Phil Martini stated that the union was again filing a 10-day notice of intent to strike.

Alvarez said, “We all have to stay focused and together. United we stand!”

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