NORMAL — Illinois State University contract negotiations are set to continue Thursday as both sides prepare for a possible strike next week.

“We do the work that makes ISU happen every single day,” said Chuck Carver, president of Local 1110 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, during a rally held on campus Tuesday afternoon.

The union represents more than 300 workers in building services, dining and grounds at the university. A strike could begin April 18 if contract talks do not reach an agreement. Negotiations began last fall, after the union’s contract expired in June.

Wages are a major sticking point. Carver used his own position as a building service worker to illustrate the situation: A starting worker would make $13.70 an hour, while Carver, who has been there around 10 years, makes a little over $20 an hour.
The parties met for about 12 hours on Friday. In a press release sent that evening, AFSCME said that there had been some movement but that significant differences remained.

In its latest update on its negotiations website, ISU said “significant progress” had been made during the session. The parties are set to meet again Thursday.

Both sides have started preparing for a strike.

AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch and Deputy Director Mike Newman spoke at the rally, saying the statewide council was supporting Local 1110. Newman said a strike seemed likely.

“A strike is not an easy thing to do, it is a brave and bold thing to do, it is a last-resort thing to do,” Lynch said.

She also thanked the students who had come out to support the union at its rally.

State Senator Dave Koehler, D-Peoria, sent a statement to support the union, as did the Bloomington-Normal branch of the NAACP and Litesa Wallace, Democratic congressional candidate for the 17th District.

Junior Jacob Boozell and sophomore Jomareun Richardson were two of the students who marched with the union. Richardson is a member of the ISU chapter of the Young Democratic Socialists of America and said that his involvement had kept him aware of updates in negotiations.

“Just to stand in solidarity (…) I know what it’s like to be in their shoes,” he said about why he attended.

Boozell had not heard details about the situation until earlier in the day.

“I just figured I’d show up (…) I don’t think it make sense to pay workers almost nothing,” he said.