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University workers set to strike for economic justice

by staff |
September 3, 2007
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Two AFSCME leaders addressing Labor Day Rally.
Phyllis Walker (right), President of AFSCME Local 3800, and Barb Bezat (left), President of Local 3937, spoke at the Labor Day press conference announcing U of M workers' plan to strike on September 5. (Fight Back! News)

St Paul, MN - At a Labor Day press conference, University of Minnesota AFSCME leaders blasted attempts by the employer to inflict a lousy contract on university workers. AFSCME workers then marched in the Saint Paul Area Trades and Labor Assembly Labor Day parade to raise awareness of the economic injustice at the University of Minnesota.

AFSCME is in stalled contract negotiations with the university. A strike date has been set for Sept. 5. The University of Minnesota administration has put only a 2.25% general wage adjustment on the table for most AFSCME workers. The administration has attempted to spin this as a 4.25% increase by adding in step increases - which are not received by all workers and do not impact the starting salaries of future workers.

Phyllis Walker, president of Local 3800 said, “The University can try to play fuzzy math all they want, but it doesn’t change the facts. Someone starting a new job at the University today makes 5% less after inflation than someone who started in 2003. Our strike is not just about fair wages for ourselves, it’s an issue of economic justice for all workers in Minnesota. The University explains its salary decisions by saying it follows the market. As the third largest employer in this state, the University has the power to set the market, and they have systematically worked to push wages down for frontline workers. We are standing up for our standard of living.”

Jody Ebert, member of AFSCME 3937 and a university alumna stated, “I went to the fair yesterday and brought with me, 'I Support U of M Workers' buttons. Anyone who commented on the button got one. I was out of them in the first 30 minutes! Everyone I talked to supported us in our effort to get a fair wage increase. When workers are denied a livable wage, the economy suffers."

Clerical worker Sandi Sherman made the point, "For me it's a question of dignity. The University of Minnesota administration has shown disrespect to workers organized by AFSCME since they decided to form unions. This contract offer is just the latest slap in the face, and I for one feel that I have no choice but to stand up and say this is unacceptable."

Cherrene Horazuk, AFSCME 3800 vice-president said, "Working people around the country have seen their wages fall in relation to inflation while corporate executives reap huge salaries and bonuses off the backs of their employees. President Bruininks and senior administrators now want to implement this system of haves and have-nots at the U of M. This is a public institution, and our taxes should not be used to enrich a few administrators while impoverishing frontline workers."