CHICAGO – Members of the United Staff of Columbia College (USCC), the union representing Columbia College staff, voted overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing a strike. The vote comes after three years of negotiations with Columbia College. USCC has been working without a contract since Aug. 31, 2018.

“Clearly, we don’t want to go on strike. We’ve spent three long years trying to avoid this. But enough is enough. We are losing talented staff to other colleges. Our students’ futures are at stake. We are willing to do whatever it takes to protect their education,” USCC President Craig Sigele said.

Over the years, Columbia College’s administration has made decisions that negatively impact students and the quality of the education being provided at the college, including cutting 331 staff positions between 2015 and 2019. Also, during the nearly 10 years between the 2009-10 and the 2018-19 school years, inflation rose by more than 18.1 percent, but salary increases for Columbia College staff totaled just 11 percent, which equates to a little more than one percent per year.

Currently, Columbia College is losing staff to Northwestern, DePaul, Loyola and College of DuPage, where they can receive higher salaries for comparable positions.

Also at issue is retroactive pay for the years USCC members have been working without a contract and increasing healthcare costs.

“The board’s latest offer provides no cost-of-living adjustment and no pay increase during the years we’ve been working without a contract,” Sigele said. “On top of that, they’re attempting to charge us more for health insurance. Under their offer, we’ll actually be making less money than we are right now. This is completely unacceptable.”

USCC represents 367 Columbia College staff persons working in administrative services, academic advising, student support services, enrollment management, the Career Center, the library, residence life and financial services, and also represents teaching artists, instructional specialists and many other titles that support the college and students.

The next bargaining session will be held via Zoom and is set for Thursday at 11 a.m.

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At 135,000 members strong, the Illinois Education Association (IEA) is the largest union in Illinois. The IEA represents PreK-12 teachers outside the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty and support staff, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.