Triton College employees threatening to strike

Workers lambaste board's spending, request 4-percent raise

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

Clerical, technical and professional employees along with mid-managers in various departments at Triton College, 2000 Fifth Ave. in River Grove, are threatening to strike if administrators don't grant them a 4-percent pay raise. 

The two union contracts covering the 145 classified employees and 65 mid-managers expired on June 30, 2019 and are still being negotiated. 

Charles Harper, a field director for Cook County College Teachers Union Local 1600, which represents the workers, said on Tuesday that administrators are asking the workers to "sell pieces of their contract and their time" for the pay raise.

"The two contracts are being worked out separately, but with each one the college is asking for some variation of working more to buy a bit of a raise," Harper said, before comparing it to the 14- to 20-percent pay raises he said administrators have received in the past.

"They said that they couldn't hire and retain administrators at the low wages they were paying them, but there's been a 70-percent turnover rate for mid-managers in the last five years," Harper said.

In a statement released Aug. 26, the union also criticized other practices by the administration, such as "buying property for over $3 million" and "wasteful spending on advertising." 

Harper said that the expired union contracts included 2.5-percent pay raises. He added that during the last round of contract negotiations, administrators told the two groups of employees "to be team players and take less of a raise," because of massive budget cuts to community college funding made under former Gov. Bruce Rauner. 

"Now that the state has committed to restoring funding to community colleges, the administration is not recognizing [the employees' sacrifice]," Harper said. 

Harper said that Sean Sullivan, Triton's vice president of business services, has been the lead negotiator for the college. The administration's negotiating team includes two representatives from the college's HR department. Representatives from the administration could not be reached for comment on Tuesday afternoon.

Harper said that there is no specific deadline for when workers will decide on a strike. The union has put in a request from the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board for mediation. They're still waiting on a mediator to be assigned, Harper said.  

On Aug. 22, around 100 members of the union presented petitions to Triton College President Mary-Rita Moore. Some members were also planning to speak during public comment at a Triton Board meeting scheduled for Aug. 27, after Forest Park Review's press time. 

Triton College serves Riverside, North Riverside and the Proviso Township portion of Brookfield.

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