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Hundreds Rally in Support of a Fair Contract for University of Minnesota Workers

by staff |
August 30, 2007
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Minneapolis, MN - 300 union and community members rallied here, Aug. 30, supporting of University of Minnesota AFSCME workers. The workers are planning to strike Sept. 5. The rally showed enthusiastic support for AFSCME workers from students, faculty, elected officials, other unions and community organizations.

Phyllis Walker, AFSCME 3800 president and a rally speaker said, “Every public employer in the state of Minnesota gave workers at least 3.25% plus steps in their current contract. Some gave 3.5%. The fact is we need more than that just to catch up from the backward slide in the last two contracts. Why does the university think it can accept a 12% funding increase from the people of Minnesota while continuing to push front-line staff into economic hardship?”

Gary Schiff, Minneapolis City Council Ward 9, spoke at the rally and said, “I am proud to be a former member of AFSCME Local 3800 and I stand with you. By standing together you are standing up for economic justice for all workers and I applaud you.”

In a written statement to rally participants, State Senator Sandra Pappas wrote, “It is crucial to the success of the University to maintain and attract quality employees by providing a competitive wage. It is a disappointing fact that employees who are hired today make less (in real wages) than an employee who started five years ago. Not only is this wage increase important now, but it is also important to future living wage jobs at the university.”

State Senator Patricia Torres-Ray echoed those sentiments and added, “I support you here and I support you in the senate. I will ask the tough questions when the university comes to the legislature this session. We fund education to invest in our children but we understand that we are also investing in the livelihoods of workers who help make that education possible.”

Contract negotiations between U of M AFSCME and the university administration broke down for the second time yesterday afternoon. In an effort to send a message that they were serious about coming to a settlement agreement, U of M AFSCME reduced their wage proposal by 3%. University management responded with no movement from their Aug. 10 offer of 2.25% for clerical workers and 2.5% for health care workers. The University proposed a possible one-time lump sum payment for workers at the top of the range. Since lump sum payments do nothing to impact a worker’s overall standard of living, negotiations were finished by noon. There are no further negotiations scheduled before the Sept. 5 strike date.