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Workers hold forum on UIC’s discriminatory practices

By Joe Iosbaker |
July 28, 2010
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Chicago, IL - As part of strike preparations at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), a leadership group from all three committees met at the famed DuSable Museum of African American history on July 23. Nine out of ten SEIU members at UIC are Black or Latino, and Local 73 had waged a decade long struggle in the 1990s to win pay equity with the employees at the University’s campus in Urbana, where the workforce is mostly white. UIC was compelled to raise workers’ salaries because of the fight that Local 73 waged, and because of a broad coalition that was built with Black and Latino forces on campus and in the community.

At the time of that struggle, state legislators, including Barack Obama, came to UIC for a hearing we called to address the communities’ charges of discrimination. Obama was quoted in the Chicago Tribune saying, "I recognize that in any institution there are going to be some glitches. But when you do get repeated complaints, that indicates that maybe we need some institutional change."

Today, UIC is trying to undo the advances made through the years of struggle. For example, it is mostly white ‘academic professionals’ (APs) who are displacing union workers.

A special presentation was made at the DuSable by Professor Timuel Black, a 91-year old historian of the Black freedom struggle in Chicago. He showed the union members at UIC that they are continuing a century long struggle for full equality. Professor Black said, “The union gives us that opportunity to fulfill our hopes and dreams.”

Latino workers have also had their struggles with UIC. Maria Garcia, a customer service representative and a member of the Clerical/Administrative bargaining committee, explained that she is ready to fight. She pointed to “… inequity in treatment, wages, work-loads, management’s disregard for us, [asking us] to use our language skills selfishly without compensation. Also and most important, the lack of information we are given regarding our future and any attempt to give us a wage increase, in spite of the ridiculous salary imbalances.”

UIC won’t just face 2700 angry workers: they’ll be facing the Black and Latino communities that make up most of their employees, the patients in their medical center and many of their students.

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