US of CC negotiations continue, building and department representatives elected


Santiago Covarrubias

Union staff members vote to decide how they want to go forward during the US of CC meeting on January 21.

By Campus Editor

AS YEARS-LONG union staff contract negotiations continue from the summer and into the upcoming semester, more than 15 United Staff of Columbia College members were appointed as building and department representatives, according to a Sept. 2 email sent by US of CC Election Committee Chair and Education Coordinator Sheila Brady.

Elected representatives will serve union members, as stated in the email. New  executive board members will work directly on union contract negotiations that have been going on for approximately three years. They will join Radio Department engineer and US of CC President Nick Hoeppner with bargaining .

Members include Tanya Harasym, vice president and communications committee chair; Marija Kovacevic, secretary; Eric Bailey, treasurer; Oscar Valdez, membership committee chair; Mary Badger, negotiations committee chair; Craig Sigele, grievance committee chair; and Joan McGrath, Cole Robertson and Mike Bright, IEA representatives.

Brady said representatives communicate concerns, interests and progress of the union to members in different departments and buildings and the organization’s Executive Committee. Brady said they let leadership know about problems as well.

Hoeppner said the most recent bargaining session between the union and the college held Sept. 8 focused primarily on solving outstanding issues such as wages and job security for union members.

“We got close on the college notifying the union when there would be upcoming job eliminations or layoffs, which is something that the union has been interested in,” Hoeppner said.

The union called the contract review process “regressive” during the summer, as members thought they were close to finalization, he added. The union felt it was close to finalizing the contract. However, Hoeppner added that he would hold both the Human Resources Department and the General Counsel equally responsible for this regression. 

Ramona Gupta, coordinator of Asian American Cultural Affairs in the Multicultural Affairs Office and 618 S. Michigan Ave. Building area representative, said she was honored to accept the position because she has been an active union member working on an agreement for years.

“I really value unions, and I know US of CC has done a lot of great work to create a more equitable workplace for staff,” Gupta said. “I see this as an extension of those same efforts. I really want to be more involved with the union and support however I can.”

Cole Robertson, marketing coordinator for the library and representative for the 624 S. Michigan Ave. Building, said he is excited about meeting union members and having face-to-face conversations with them, something he has always enjoyed.

“We can communicate so much better just sitting at a table and hashing our words out than we ever could through an endless stream of emails or a newsletter,” Robertson said. 

Robertson said contract negotiations never came to a halt during the summer, adding recently appointed Associate Vice President of Human Resources Norma de Jesus went through the contract and made last-minute revisions, which the union is  in the process of reviewing. 

“We are still negotiating and everything is cautiously optimistic to finally resolve that,” Robertson said.

Hoeppner added that the college and US of CC will meet again on Sept. 15 to continue the new

contract negotiations.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that [the negotiation] will keep moving forward,” Hoeppner said.