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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

Union Members March On Campus, Escalate Wage Battle With NIU

Dozens of state employee union members and Northern Illinois University employees protested Monday on the DeKalb campus.

They came in support of a fair initial contract between AFSCME and NIU. Protestors marched in the turn-around outside Altgeld Hall on campus.

AFSCME members have been negotiating with NIU officials since February 2016. Since then, union members filed unfair labor practice charges against NIU and recently won a case regarding parking pass rate increases.

The latest point of contention is the circumstances of union members in open contracts getting a university-wide three-percent wage increase.

Illinois State Rep. Litesa Wallace was a speaker at the protest. She says she came because she once taught at NIU as a graduate assistant.

Wallace says she didn’t make a fair wage having full instructional duties while she was a student.

“And so this brings back memories for me of having to struggle, even though I worked every day and every week for the university," Wallace said. "They shouldn’t have to struggle, and so I will continue to stand up for and with them.”

Union member Ellen Cabrera is an office manager for NIU’s public administration department.

“We love our students, we love our programs, we love our work – we just want to be respected and paid a living wage for the work that we do,” Cabrera said.

Carolyn Law is a dissertation advisor at NIU. She is not part of the union but came to support the members.

“I think it’s unconscionable that they have been performing essential work functions without a contract for so long,” Law said.

Local union representatives say they will continue to meet with NIU administrators in negotiations.

NIU chief negotiator Jesse Perez recently issued a statement saying union members turned down an offer for the wage increase. Union officials say they could not negotiate other wage increases if they took the university’s offer.

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