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Standing up against budget cuts at the University of Minnesota

By Tracy Molm |
June 15, 2010
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Phyllis Walker, president of AFSCME 3800 speaking at June 14 press conference
Phyllis Walker, president of AFSCME 3800 speaking at June 14 press conference. (Fight Back! News/Staff)
Cherrene Horazuk, chief steward of AFSCME 3800.
Cherrene Horazuk, chief steward of AFSCME 3800.

Minneapolis, MN – Today 25 staff, faculty, graduate and undergraduate held a press conference to speak out against the University of Minnesota administration’s continued attempts to push budget cuts onto students and the lowest paid staff at the U. 

Phyllis Walker, president of AFSCME 3800, the clerical workers at the U of M said, “President Bruininks budget pushes the U’s budget problems onto students and staff at the University of Minnesota while it continues to inflate the administration.”

Walker continued, “While the budget for public education gets slashed, over 250 administrators at the University of Minnesota are paid more than $200,000 per year. Increasing layoffs and the threatened furloughs reduce vital services for students. Furloughs are a pay cut and front line staff are already struggling to get by.” 

Members of the progressive faculty group, Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education, also joined for the press conference asking the administration to stop using cuts that disproportionately effect lower paid staff and stop cutting academic programs at our public land-grant institution.

 After the press conference most of the group went inside, where the Board of Regents were having their annual public budget hearing, the only time when the community can comment on the budget. This year the president has recommended a budget that includes additional departmental cuts and staff and faculty taking pay cuts. 

Cherrene Horazuk, chief steward of AFSCME 3800, told the regents, “The administration states ‘we are all in this together - all employee groups need to sacrifice equally.’ Well, over the past year and a half, clerical workers have sacrificed. 36% fewer AFSCME members are taking classes since you instituted 10-25% cuts in the regents’ scholarship program. Clerical workers gave up two years of step increases, or 4%, in order to help the university deal with budget cuts. Over the past year and a half, 4.3% of our members have lost their jobs, compared to only 0.43% of academic administrators. Clearly, clerical workers and other front-line staff have made our sacrifice and should not be asked, much less mandated, to sacrifice any more. It’s time the university eliminate many of these bloated administrative positions and their six-figure salaries.”

Jesse Simmons, of the University of Minnesota Students for a Democratic Society, said, “It’s time for the Board of Regents to do the right thing for students and staff at this university. Chop from the top!”

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