How would a strike work?
1. When would a strike happen?
2. Can a non-member vote?
3. How long might a strike last, and how would a strike end?
4. Can we be terminated, dismissed, non-renewed, or laid off if we strike?
5. Do I have to be a member to strike?
6. What does it mean to be “on strike”?
7. What do we do while we are on strike?
8. But what if I don’t want to do any of those activities?
9. Is attending a campus, non-work event such as a football game or a concert permissible?
10. How does picketing work?
11. What form of support can we expect from our parent organization, the IEA-NEA?
12. What if an administrator asks about my participation in strike or union activities?
13. What “dirty tricks” can I expect from the administration?
14. Can my insurance be affected by a strike?
15. If a strike happens, what about my access to university equipment?
16. What happens to my pay check and the issue of “dock” days including make-up days and insurance payments if we have a strike?
17. How does my immigration status affect my right to strike?
- When would a strike happen?
- Can a non-member vote?
- How long might a strike last, and how would a strike end?
- Can we be terminated, dismissed, non-renewed, or laid off if we strike?
- Do I have to be a member to strike?
- What does it mean to be “on strike”?
- What do we do while we are on strike?
Each local would make its own decision to strike in accordance with its bylaws and published voting procedures. The decision is made by a majority vote of dues-paying members. A possible ballot question is: “Do you authorize the [name of Local] to implement a strike of all represented [Faculty, Civil Service Staff, Graduate Assistants] against the Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University Carbondale on or after [mm/dd/2011 ] provided there is no tentative agreement reached prior to the first day of a called strike?”
No, but consistent with local IEA-NEA practice, non-dues paying represented individuals may join any time prior to actually receiving and casting a ballot.
Strikes in the Illinois public education sector have been short in duration. Historically, the length of a strike ranges from a few hours to a few weeks, such as the recent strikes at Long Island University and Central Michigan University. But putting a deadline on a strike would only favor an administration strategy of stonewalling and avoiding compromise. Strikes usually end with a mutually agreed tentative agreement, but can also be ended by an unconditional offer to return to work.
A strike is legal under Illinois Law if procedural conditions are met [See Q#2]. To “fire” us or attempt to retaliate against us because of participation in this legal action violates the Illinois Labor Act (115 ILCS 5/14a) which prohibits an educational employer from:
(1) “interfering, restraining, or coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed under the Act.”
(3)“discriminating in regard to hire, tenure of employment or any term or condition of employment to encourage or discourage membership in any employee organization.”
Dismissal, termination, non-renewal, or other forms of discrimination to break a strike will be vigorously opposed. IEA-NEA legal funds are earmarked to protect these rights.
No, striking is a right of every union represented employee regardless of official membership in the organization. However, access to certain legal defense funds and financial assistance programs offered by IEA-NEA are only available to dues-paying members.
While there is no legal definition of a strike in the Labor Act, our operative description is, “a concerted refusal to perform day-to-day work duties to disrupt the normal operation of an employer.”
Strike activities include, but are not limited to:
- legal picketing at entrances to campus,
- distributing literature to students and the public,
- organizing speakers to educate the public as to purpose of the strike,
- organizing events to sustain member morale,
- serving on the contact team for the local, state and national media,
- managing an off-campus strike headquarters,
- Implementing other activities organized by the strike steering committee.
To have a successful strike we would need to mobilize numerous volunteers to show solidarity and strength as we undertake a strike action.
There is no such thing as being partially on strike. Support of a strike means we do not report for work or perform work duties for the duration of the strike. Each of us must decide what that means given the nature and scope of work projects at a public research university. We do not have a “Get Relief from Strike” card nor will we have a “snoop” squad to ascertain whether each person adheres to a strict “no work rule.”
In the end, each of us must decide whether certain activities “give comfort” to the administration. Administrators may view individual actions as not being in solidarity with the union. Colleagues may believe those individuals are assisting the administration in strike breaking.
There are no “yes” or “no” answers here. Your conscience is your guide.
Picketing is a lawful expression of our first amendment rights. It is our most visible expression of purpose and solidarity. We do not pay picketers, but we insure hot/cold drinks, food, and camaraderie to keep spirits up. We can picket at any public place, but we cannot block an entrance or exit, or cause a danger to health and safety. We cannot picket a person’s home or residence (720 ILCS 5). Unlike the federal law, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act does not permit injunction to stop a strike unless there is ”a clear and present danger to the health and safety of the public” [115 ILCS 5/13(b)].
Before any picketing events, we will confer with IEA legal counsel, the Carbondale Police Department, SIUC Police, and the Illinois State Police to ensure that we are in compliance with their directives, local ordinances and state laws. All picketers would be given a list of proper conduct on a picket line.
The IEA-NEA provides staff assistance in a strike. Currently the NEA is funding an organizer (Marinus van Kuilenberg) to help us in strike planning and member assistance. Our full-time UniServ Director, Jim Clark, has nearly thirty-nine years of bargaining experience, including coordinating strike actions.
Should legal problems arise, the NEA would provide legal support at no cost to members or their locals. Government relations staff members (one of whom is assigned as a Higher Ed contact) give us access to state officials in Springfield as well as local legislators. And IEA communication specialists have advised us on message development during the summer months and would continue to assist us in a strike.
To ensure your bills are paid if you miss a check, IEA-NEA has an interest-free loan program available for dues-paying members. Also, the IEA-NEA network of voluntary donations has raised thousands of dollars in the past to support its striking sister locals. IEA and NEA members and locals across the state and nation have been extremely generous when a call for donations is made.
Contact a Union Representative immediately if you believe any of your rights have been violated as stated in Question 14 above. The following are some examples of employer conduct that might be an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP):
- asking you whether you are going on strike,
- implying you will not have a job when the strike is over,
- implying non-renewal or non-reappointment,
- threatening cancellation of health or any other insurance,
- ”spying” or forms of surveillance activity,
- offering a promise of benefit for not striking or voting to strike.
Here are common employer tactics to break a strike or sow discord and fear among faculty, staff, and graduate assistants.
- Threatening you with loss of insurance or massive increase in your premium payment via COBRA to keep the insurance in effect. (See Q #14)
- Imply VISA problems may occur if international faculty, staff and graduate assistants support a strike. (See Q#17)
- Blame your bargaining team for not bargaining.
- Accuse the union leadership of being a “faction” or “clique” only out for themselves and not you.
- Imply that your job may be jeopardized if you strike.
- Assert that the union does not represent the “silent majority.”
- Claim that IEA wants the strike, not the locals.
These tactics are designed to divide and conquer and to place the union leadership on the defensive. Educate yourself and help educate others about what’s really going on. If administrators and their minions can make you doubt or distrust your bargaining team and leadership, THEY WIN.
This information does not apply to graduate assistants who, for the purposes of insurance, are legally considered students and not employees. Their access to the student health insurance will not change in the event of a strike.
During an August 3, 2011 conversation between IEA Uniserv Director Jim Clark and State of Illinois Central Management Services (CMS) legal representative Robb Caddock, Caddock stated that that CMS is in “unchartered territory” regarding strikes at universities. CMS is the authorized agency to administer insurance for university employees under the “State Employees’ Group Insurance Act.” Based on his interpretation of the law and the State of Illinois Benefit Handbook (www.cms.il.gov/cms/download/pdf-sbenefits/handbook.pdf), Caddock outlined three options that would be reviewed in consultation with SIUC in the event of a strike. CMS has the final authority for the final decision:
Option 1: Implement administrative actions to issue COBRA letters to all covered employees on strike. There was no discussion between Clark and Caddock about how the SIU admin or CMS would know this and Caddock had no answers to questions Clark asked about how much this would cost CMS to implement.
Option 2: Maintain the status quo arrangement when there is no paycheck for a short period. In other words, employees pay their individual/family premium co-payment to CMS directly and the University continues to pay the “Employer” share. The State of Illinois budgets money to SIU to pay for insurance and the University pays to CMS the Employer’s share on the 1st and 16th of the month, which is also when employee co-pays are due.
Option 3: 100% of the Employer/Employee cost is billed by CMS to the striking employee with a deadline for payment to avoid discontinuance of insurance coverage.
CMS has made no decision at this time but we can anticipate that the SIUC administration, as an intimidation and scare tactic, will push CMS to implement the most extreme option, COBRA, since that appears to be potentially the most unnerving action for employees.
The provisions of COBRA (Comprehensive Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) and HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act) are federal laws designed to keep your same insurance benefits in full force and effect even though financial responsibility is shifted to the insured. COBRA and HIPAA provide the right to continuous coverage and protection for pre-existing conditions, still under the same CMS benefit coverage program you have now, although full financial responsibility for coverage is shifted to the insured person. Once there is a determination of who is striking, each individual must be given written notification saying that current CMS coverage would be shifted into the COBRA eligibility provision and that each individual has 60 days to elect coverage under COBRA and 45 days after election to pay the required premiums. As long as the premium is paid by the due date, coverage and benefits remain intact.
BOTTOM LINE: the threat of COBRA is an intimidation tactic and only becomes a threat to your pocketbook in the unlikely event that a strike lasts more than 30 -60 days. IEA members can use the no-interest loans to cover those costs if the payment of premiums is needed before the strike is settled.
Most employers in a strike situation will block your access to these employer resources, so make sure you have access to a non-SIUC e-mail and computer. Remove anything you’ll need from your office before a strike date.
If a strike occurs your bargaining team will present a bargaining proposal entitled “Back to Work Agreement” or “Strike Settlement Agreement.” This proposal would address all strike issues affecting your wages, hours or terms and conditions of employment. These items would include (a non inclusive list):
- Adjustment to work and academic calendars
- Pay during strike days: dock days vs. make up days
- Non-retaliation clauses
- Protection for promotional decisions
- Insurance and reimbursement
- Issue of non-striking employees
- Protection for potential retirees
This proposal would be prepared by your bargaining team in collaboration with the IEA UniServ Director and IEA Associate General Counsel.
Individuals who are H-1B visa holders and permanent residency visa holders (Green Card) have the right to strike as a lawful activity. F-1 visa holders have the right to strike or not strike unless the US Department of Labor certifies the strike, at which time F-1 holders must not report for work (in essence F-1 visa holders cannot be used as a strike breakers.) There are no specific rules about strikes for J-1 visa holders. The safest advice for J-1 visa holders is to stay within the wording of the Exchange Visitor Program in which they are enrolled. It is clear that J-1 visa holders cannot be used as substitutes or replacements for other employees who are on strike. Questions or issues about visa matters should be directed to the designated strike committee contact person.