U of M workers organize for strike

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University of Minnesota clerical, technical and health care workers, represented by AFSCME, are organizing for a strike, their union announced.

AFSCME Locals 3800, 3801, 3260 and 3937 have scheduled meetings starting Tuesday in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Crookston and Duluth. Together, the locals represent about 3,500 campus workers whose previous contracts expired June 30.

“The AFSCME Joint Negotiations Committee made a decision on Friday night to send the settlement offer back to the university’s negotiators, along with a letter to them stating that we would send their proposal out for a vote of the membership,” the unions said in a statement posted on their websites.

“We told them that we would be sending this to our members with a recommendation of ‘reject and strike.'”

The meetings will address different aspects of strike readiness, union leaders said. No dates for a contract vote or the start of a strike were announced. Fall semester classes start at the university Sept. 4.

The administration’s wage offer of 2.25 percent each year “does not even come close to meeting our economic needs,” the union said.

“We believe the university has the money to fairly compensate the people who keep this university running,” said Barb Bezat, president of Local 3937. “We’ve seen how well the senior administrators have been compensated. AFSCME workers deserve better treatment than that.”

‘Clerical, technical and health care workers’ salaries have lost 5 percent of their value to inflation since 1994,” said Local 3800 President Phyllis Walker. “With the 3.5 percent inflation that is projected for each of the next two years, that will leave us 7.5 percent below inflation at the end of our contract. When our contract expires we’ll be even worse off than we are today.”

University clerical workers conducted a two-week strike in 2003 over the issue of health care.

In addition to holding rallies, the workers have put together a short video presentation on YouTube to illustrate how their compensation has fallen behind that of highly paid administrators.

The video and the schedule for the strike preparation meetings are posted on the unions’ websites.

For more information
Visit www.afscme3800.org , www.afscme3937.org, www.afscmemn.org and www.d.umn.edu/~afscme/