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UIC Bailed Out, but Workers Sold Out

by Joe Iosbaker |
May 27, 2009
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Woman on bullhorn speaking to picketers
Sarita Heer, Action Chair of Graduate Employees Organization speaking at May 21 protest. (Fight Back! News/Ben Seese )

Chicago, IL - The University of Illinois Board of Trustees had protesters inside and outside their meeting here, May 21.

Inside, speakers representing union, student and community groups opposed cutbacks in the UIC (University of Illinois - Chicago) budget. The members of the coalition applauded loudly when Sirlena Perry, a 25-year employee and a leader in the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73, declared, “You have abandoned the ‘Urban Mission.’” This is the name UIC gives to its pledge to help the poor, mainly Black and Latino communities that surround the campus. Most workers at UIC are from these communities.

Outside, upwards of 100 people picketed for 2 and a half hours to put the Board of Trustees on notice that layoffs, tuition hikes, increases in fees for graduate employees and cuts in services to the community would all face opposition. The picketers were outraged because one month earlier, University of Illinois administrators had asked for and received support from Local 73 and the Graduate Employees Organization for a lobbying effort at the state legislature for a budget increase. As a result of these efforts, Governor Quinn announced that an earlier 2.5% cut to UIC's budget was being restored, and this year’s budget would also have a small increase.

Union members were in Springfield where University of Illinois President Joe White addressed them in a rally, saying, “Thank you for your voice.” Meanwhile, UIC’s Vice Chancellor for Human Resources, John Loya was drawing up a list of 35 workers whose positions were to be eliminated; who would be ‘bumped’ from their current positions; and finally 35 to then be laid off. When the coalition members marched from the Board of Trustees meeting to join the picket line, they shouted at the trustees and other top administrators, “You got bailed out, we got sold out!”

The picketers, including many who were threatened with layoff, responded that there is an alternative to cutting crucial support staff. They chanted, “Chop from the top!”

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