Union Strike FAQs
An economic strike is a concerted strike or other job action (including, but not limited, to work stoppage or interruption of work) that is motivated by the Union's efforts to achieve its bargaining demands. A public educational unionized employee, including employees of Illinois State University, generally has the right to strike under the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act (IELRA) to achieve bargaining demands, provided (1) the collective bargaining agreement between the parties has expired, (2) the University and the Union representing the employee(s) have engaged in mediation without success or have reached impasse, and (3) the Union has given at least ten (10) calendar days' notice of its intent to strike. If the contract at issue is the first contract between the parties, item (1) does not apply.
Following are frequently asked questions concerning campus impacts should one of ISU's 16 unions engage in a legal economic strike. This FAQ does not address all potential situations.
- Will employees continue to be paid if they withhold services (fail or refuse to perform work as scheduled) as a result of a strike?
No. If a bargaining unit (the group of employees in a union that are covered by a union contract) engages in a legal economic strike, individual employees in that bargaining unit can choose to work or choose to strike. As with any union-initiated strike action, employees who elect not to work as scheduled cannot and will not be paid for scheduled time during which they do not work. The University cannot provide compensation to employees unless assigned services are rendered.
Under Illinois law, public employees represented by labor organizations are permitted to strike, and the University will comply with all applicable requirements and principles regarding the rights of striking employees. Continuing to receive pay while withholding services is not one of those rights.
If an individual employee works, they will be paid as usual.
- Are all employees in the bargaining unit that has declared a legal economic strike required to strike (fail or refuse to perform work as scheduled)?
No. If a bargaining unit (the group of employees in a union that are covered by a union contract) engages in a legal economic strike, individual employees in that bargaining unit can choose to work or choose to strike.
- Can employees who are not in the bargaining unit that has declared a legal economic strike also strike (fail or refuse to perform work as scheduled) in support of the striking bargaining unit?
Generally, only employees covered under the current striking bargaining unit can lawfully strike after they have met all the requirements for a legal strike (i.e., expired contract, mediation has failed, and the Union has provided at least a ten-calendar day notice of the intent to strike). Faculty, staff, and students in employee roles not represented by the specific striking bargaining unit are expected to perform their job duties as usual, so that the University can continue to provide service to its students, faculty, staff, and visitors.
Since all the University's union contracts contain "No-Strike" clauses, any strike or refusal to perform duties by employees in these bargaining units would, in most cases, be in violation of the applicable "No-Strike" clause and the state's labor law since the prerequisites for a legal strike would not have been met.
If employees in other employee groups, including those not covered by a collective bargaining agreement, engage in a sympathy strike (i.e., fail or refuse to perform all or a portion of their job duties), the University's normal procedures governing absences or refusal to complete work remain in effect and will be applied. This may include, but is not limited to, disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment. In the event of a legal economic strike by employees represented by a specific bargaining unit (the group of employees in a union that are covered by a union contract), it is possible that University employees represented by unions other than the specific striking bargaining unit may contemplate joining in sympathy strikes. Should actions of this nature occur, the University may obtain appropriate court or agency orders and consider appropriate penalties against unions and/or employees who take part in illegal job actions.
- Is picketing allowed?
Yes, though certain conduct is prohibited by law and policy. The following conduct expectations will continue during a picket and/or strike, are consistent with the law and current University policies, and will be enforced by the University:
Students, employees, and visitors have a right to attend classes and freely enter/exit academic or administrative buildings without being intimidated, coerced, or threatened.
Picketers and strikers are not permitted to block a door, passageway, driveway, crosswalk, or other entrance or exit. Should picketing occur, the University will take steps to ensure picketing does not interfere with ingress or egress for people or vehicles.
Picketers and strikers may not disrupt instruction, research, administration, or other University activities.
Printed materials or handbills may be distributed anywhere on campus outside of University buildings.
Any printed materials that are posted must be posted in compliance with University posting policies.
Union officials, picketers or strikers have a right to talk to people going into or out of campus buildings. However, intimidation, threats and coercion are not permitted, either by verbal remarks or physical action.
Conduct that threatens the health or safety of any person, or creates a reasonable fear that such a result will occur, including but not limited to acts of violence, threats of violence, threatening behavior, and/or reckless disregard for the health or safety of any person, are not acceptable conduct at Illinois State University and will not be tolerated.
Additional information can be found in University Policy 6.1.1, University Facility and Space Use.
If any violation of these expectations occurs, a record of the incidents should be made and reported to HRCommunications@IllinoisState.edu. In the event of an emergency threatening the safety of property or persons, the aggrieved person or a witness should immediately report the behavior to ISU Police. ISU Police will continue to observe their normal procedures.
- What should employees who report to work expect?
All employees and supervisors who may be reporting to work during the strike should be aware that intimidation, threats and coercion are prohibited. However, there is the possibility of being subjected to taunts and name-calling from picketing or striking employees, as well as possible threats of violence. Employees are advised not to respond to such conduct. More specifically:
The University will take all necessary steps to protect an individual's right to enter and leave without interference.
Arguments or shouting matches should be avoided.
If passage to University facilities or property is not completely blocked, individuals should proceed slowly and with caution.
If passage to University facilities or property is completely blocked or if threats are made, individuals should not attempt to enter the premises and should first contact ISU Police and then their immediate supervisor. The individual should write down a description of what happened and what was said, including the names or descriptions of the persons involved. Also, the names of other witnesses should be obtained.
Any attempts to interfere with entering or leaving the University's facilities or property should be reported to HRCommunications@IllinoisState.edu.
- Will employees be disciplined for engaging in a picket or a strike?
The University will not take disciplinary action against any employee for exercising their legal right to picket and/or to strike. All employees and students are governed by standards of conduct, and a strike in no way removes the responsibility of all employees and students to act in accordance with these standards. Employees who violate University policy and/or engage in misconduct, such as illegal behavior (vandalism, assault, violent behavior, etc.), or harass, intimidate, or otherwise obstruct access or disrupt classes or work, are subject to discipline in the same manner as if they were not on strike.
In addition, employees who strike but do not have a legal right to strike (i.e., the prerequisites for a legal strike have not been met, a sympathy strike, or an illegal strike or work stoppage of some other sort) would be subject to discipline, up to and including termination of employment. Employees who engage in violations of the law may also be subject to arrest.
- What process will be followed to determine the amount to be deducted from the pay of employees who participate in a strike?
Striking hourly employees will only be paid for hours worked. Pay for striking exempt employees who perform no other duties on behalf of the University that day will be reduced in accordance with University policy.
- Will striking employees be eligible for unemployment insurance?
Illinois law does not allow unemployment compensation for employees who are on strike.
- Will sick time, vacation time, and/or compensatory time benefits be impacted?
Accrual of vacation and sick benefits will stop effective with the first full pay period during the strike for those employees who participate in a legal economic strike. Additionally, employees who participate in a legal economic strike will not be able to utilize accrued vacation, sick, or compensatory time benefits on any days or for any hours that they participate in the strike.
- Will participation in the State University Retirement System (SURS) be impacted?
Employees eligible to participate in the State University Retirement System (SURS) generally retain that eligibility in the event they participate in a legal economic strike. Contributions to SURS will be reduced, as with any other situation when an employee is not receiving compensation, as those contributions can only be made based upon earnings.
- Will participation in the State's Group Insurance program be impacted?
Employees eligible to participate in the State's Group Insurance program generally retain that eligibility in the event they participate in a legal economic strike. However, costs associated with group insurance coverage may be impacted depending on the length of the strike and the facts of each individual employee's situation.
In addition, if an employee has 30 or more days of unpaid time, which would include time while out on a strike, during a plan year, the employee's premium amounts for the following plan year will be affected.
If you have any questions regarding the Human Resources procedures covered in these FAQs, please direct those questions to HRCommunications@IllinoisState.edu.