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University AFSCME strike shakes campus

Thousands rally in support
by staff |
July 31, 2007
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Minneapolis, MN - Amid cheering striking workers, students and faculty, Elizabeth Edwards, wife of presidential candidate John Edwards, spoke in support of University of Minnesota clerical, technical and health care workers, Sept. 5. The rally was one of the high points in the first day of the strike.

Edwards was followed by SEIU Local 26 president Javier Morrello. Joe Rofler, president of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees spoke and donated $5000 to the U of M Workers Support fund.

AFSCME Council 5 pledged the support of tens of thousands of AFSCME members in Minnesota. Additional messages of solidarity were received from AFA, ATU 1005 and Teamsters Local 120. A group of teamsters carried a banner reading, “Rank and file teamsters support AFSCME strike.”

Al Franken visited picket lines around campus this morning accompanied by ‘Stuart Smalley’ who offered strikers the to join him in the affirmation, “I’m good enough, I’m strong enough and gosh darn it I deserve a fair contract.”

In addition many members of the campus community attended the rally including professors, civil service staff and students. The enthusiastic support was welcomed by strikers. One striking worker said, “All of this support is tremendously powerful, it helps keep me strong on the picket line. I want people to understand why I am on strike, I am not striking to buy a Lexus, I am striking to be able to survive.”

The strike is having a tremendous impact all over campus. Just a few examples are:

Veterinary Medicine – St. Paul Campus:
The Veterinary Teaching Hospital and Clinics are virtually shut down and are only accepting emergent patients. At least 50% of the University of Minnesota’s veterinary technicians walked off work today, leaving some 15 specialty clinics and the animal hospital open only for emergency calls. Clinic appointments scheduled through the week of Sept. 17 have been canceled due to the lack of technicians to provide care. Inexperienced students are being asked to take over technical responsibilities.

School of Dentistry – East Bank Minneapolis Campus:
The school of dentistry clinics were reduced to one floor of clinics. Without AFSCME Local 3260 dental assistants, lab technicians and dental hygienists, two floors of dental clinics in Moos Tower have consolidated to one floor. Healthcare employees interview patients and assist teeth cleaning, as well as fabricate dentures and crowns.

Bursar’s Offices - West Bank Minneapolis Campus and St. Paul Campus:
With the absence of AFSMCE clerical workers, the Bursar's offices on the West bank and St. Paul areas are closed for the duration of the strike.

Anderson and Wilson Libraries - West Bank Minneapolis Campus
Anderson Library is cleared of technical and clerical workers. Anderson holds eight special collections and archives units and is the central office of the MINITEX Library Information Network. Staff at Wilson Library, the main West Bank library, is significantly reduced. No books leave a U of M Library without touching an AFSMCE worker.

911 Dispatchers - Twin Cities Campus:
Without AFSCME police dispatchers, University of Minnesota police cannot handle the computerized dispatch system. Minneapolis dispatchers are also AFSCME and are handling 911 calls for the U of M only. Normal dispatch operations cannot be fulfilled.

Facilities Management - Twin Cities Campus
The facilities management emergency call center is cleared of employees. The call center answers problems with building maintenance such as elevator malfunctions and electricity failures.