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Talks between ISU and graduate teaching assistants reach ‘strike readiness’ phase


NORMAL (WEEK) - The union representing more than 400 graduate teaching assistants at Illinois State University said it's entering a "strike readiness" phase because the university and union are far from reaching agreement on a first contract.

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 73 issued a news release Wednesday night following the first session with a federal mediator and after union leaders updated ISU's Academic Senate about the status of negotiations.

During the mediated session, the union said it presented a proposal that would place ISU teaching assistants at the same salary level as unionized TAs at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

The union said ISU responded with "more poverty proposals" that would not give all TAs a raise and no break on student fees.

"Strike readiness is not about the certainty of a strike. It’s about signaling to our members and broader coalition that we need to enter a new phase of escalation where we prepare for the possibility of a strike," the union said.

The union's statement went on to say, "A strike by the Graduate Workers Union, if strategically planned and strongly supported by our members, would disrupt business as usual where ISU thrives on the poverty of TAs. A strike would aim to make our crisis as TAs a crisis for ISU, for President (Larry) Dietz, for the Board of Trustees, pressuring them to act to take our members out of the poverty and debt that is an engine of ISU’s success. "

The university also issued a statement Wednesday night.

"Illinois State University has and will continue to work diligently to reach a fair and fiscally responsible contract agreement that addresses the concerns raised by the SEIU without disruption to the teaching and learning environment."

The university went on to say another session with the mediator is tentatively set for March 18.

The two sides have been negotiating since October 2019.

Howard Packowitz

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