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U of M AFSCME Goes Back To Work, Fight Continues

by University of Minnesota AFSCME strikers |
September 24, 2007
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Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement from the University of Minnesota AFSCME strikers.

September 21, 2007  - After 15 hours of mediation, the negotiating committee of University of Minnesota AFSCME has made the decision to take the University Administration's settlement offer to union members for a vote.

The two-year contract offer contains a 2.25 percent cost of living increase for clerical and technical workers, a 2.5 percent cost of living increase for healthcare workers, plus steps and a $300 lump sum in each year. Workers who don't receive step increases will get an additional $300 in each year. This offer will go to members without recommendation from the negotiating committee.

"We are forced back to work because we can no longer sustain the loss of salary and a looming end to our health care coverage. A typical striker earns $34,000 a years and qualifies for food stamps if supporting a family of four. We remain shocked by the administrations absolute disregard for people's lives," said Denise Osterholm, President of UMD Local 3801.

This settlement is inadequate in that it does not account for the ever rising cost of food, gas and housing. Because of inflation, someone starting work under this contract will earn eight percent less than someone who started the job in 2003.

Barb Bezat, President of the Technical Local 3937 said, "The University should be ashamed that its workers can't afford to attend or send their kids to the University."

"This offer is unfair because it fails to keep up with inflation," said, Rhonda Jennen President of the healthcare workers. "The U is choosing to impoverish some of its workers. World class universities don't treat their workers like second class citizens."

We have been met at every turn by an intransigent administration, led by President Robert Bruininks and Vice President and Provost E. Thomas Sullivan, who are committed to the idea that those who already have should have ever more while the have-nots are pushed further to the bottom.

"While we have a great commitment to the University of Minnesota as an institution, we have been treated with disrespect and disregard by the current administration." said Bezat.

Phyllis Walker, Clerical Local 3800 President said, "We wish to thank the many thousands across the state who have given us support, including faculty, students, unions and community members. We are energized to build a world class union. We are confident that we will do that before the administration builds a world class University. Bruininks and Sullivan have an agenda of more money for the rich, more free research for corporations, and education only for the elite. Their agenda shuts working class Minnesotans out of the University."