Logan Operational Staff wants contracts with living wages

By Gus Bode

Although they carried signs that read “Depressed Wages = Depressed Workers,” the group appeared upbeat as they waved to passing cars and whooped in response to honking car horns.

John A. Logan College operational staff workers picketed for the first time ever on Thursday in an attempt to inform the public they’ve been working without a contract since July.

The union, called the Logan Operational Staff Association, had members in gray T-shirts with the association’s logo hold up cardboard signs on Greenbriar Road, the college’s main entrance, at passing traffic on Illinois Route 13. Some of the signs read, “Support our Support Staff” and “We Need a Contract.”

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Jim Clark, a field associate for the Illinois Education Association who has been working with the group, said the union was simply exercising their Constitutional right to tell the public they haven’t been working with a contract since mid-summer.

“They’re frustrated with the lack of progress in bargaining,” Clark said. “The district is in excellent shape. The kind of proposal that we’re seeking is affordable by the employer.”

The group of more than 50 secretaries, desk and mail clerks and other support staff members, who picketed on their lunch break, began negotiating in April. By the time the contract expired in July, the union and the employer had yet to reach a bargain, union spokeswoman Vicki Kelly said. Negotiations have been in mediation, which requires federal involvement to assist in bargaining, since September.

“So far we have no resolution,” Kelly said. “Mostly, we want a proposal that we can take to our memberships and ratify. Our group is the lowest paid group out here, yet we share all the expenses 50-50 with the board and any increase in our health benefit package, and we don’t have disposable income.”

Kelly, who works as a secretary at the college, said the average pay of the group last November was $11.44 an hour.

Kay Clark, a desk clerk in the campus safety office for four years, said she just wants a contract for a living wage.

“You know, we have to live,” Kay Clark said. “We just want a good wage. It’s all about the money, and we have none.”

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John A. Logan administration and the Board of Trustees declined to comment, but the college’s attorney, John Huffman, said the college is not opposed to picketing and supports the organization’s rights to do so.

“We’re continuing to negotiate with them, and we still look forward to trying to resolve any outstanding issues,” said Huffman, who had come out to observe the picketers and take photographs of the various signs.

Parties are entitled to maintain their positions, he continued, and the college believes the union has an honorable approach, but the college is sincere and honest in its approach as well.

“We simply have a disagreement, but we look forward to continuing the negotiation process,” he said.

Kelly said she is not sure what will happen if a resolution is not reached soon. The group will try for another mediation, she said, but the mediator said the college and the union were too far apart and not to call him until progress is made.

“We could file an intent to strike, but I hope it doesn’t come to that,” she said.

Reporter Haley Murray can be reached at [email protected]

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