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City Colleges Of Chicago Workers Hit Picket Lines To Force Contract Talks

Above Photo: Kate McGee/WBEZ. Union members of Local 1600, which represents teaching faculty at colleges in Cook County, picket outside Malcolm X College on Chicago’s West Side on Monday.

Three unions that represent faculty and staff at City Colleges of Chicago say the college’s bargaining team will not come to the table to negotiate contracts.

The unions said they plan to picket all City Colleges of Chicago board meetings until contract agreements are reached.

In a statement, a college spokesperson disputed that accusation, saying the system has held more than 40 meetings with seven collective bargaining units over the past year. “City Colleges has been responding and will continue to respond to contract proposals.”  Administrators also said they value the unions and that they “are working to reach mutually beneficial contract agreements.”

The unions represent hundreds of employees, including professors, clerical staff, and security guards. AFSCME 3506, which represents adult education teachers, has not had a contract since June 2016. Local 1708, which represents clerical and technical staff, has not had a contract since June 2017. Local 1600, which represents faculty, has not had a contract since July.

“We’ve all had sessions canceled and proposals outstanding for months that have not been addressed or responded to by negotiating teams,” Local 1600 President Tony Johnston told the City College board of trustees at a monthly meeting last week. “These stalling tactics at the negotiating table has to stop.”

City Colleges board members and Chancellor Juan Salgado did not address employee concerns during public comment at Thursday’s board meeting.

Johnston says the faculty union had to file an unfair labor practice complaint to get salary and benefits data to begin negotiating with the college. Once they received that information, the union proposed a four percent pay increase.

The faculty union also wants a salary system put in place for professional staff, which includes tutors, college advisors, and lab technicians.

Johnston said there is too much wage disparity between different professional employees now. The union is asking for pay to be based on seniority and a person’s education level. Johnston said the union has not heard back from the college.

“People are vultures and you don’t want to be in a situation where we are without protection and that’s a grave concern of ours,” said C.M. Winters, a librarian at Malcolm X College who marched outside the campus on Chicago’s West Side last week. “Chicago’s a very political city and things can get a little complicated, so we just make sure we have a fair contract. We want to make sure we secure our working conditions.”

Winters said she is prepared to strike if necessary, which is something Local 1600 president Tony Johnston said the union is also ready to do, but has not yet held a strike authorization vote. The last time Local 1600 had a strike was in 2004.

“We don’t want to go that route, but we have to prepare for that possibility,” Johnson said.

The union said it also wants an elected school board. Currently, the mayor appoints trustees and the chancellor. 

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