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U of MN AFSCME reaches tentative agreement including essential worker bonuses, worksite flexibility

By staff |
December 20, 2021
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Minneapolis, MN - On December 16, around 2500 hundred clerical, technical and healthcare workers at the University of Minnesota reached a tentative agreement on a new contract. The workers are members of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Locals 3800, 3801, 3260 and 3937 and have been working with an expired contract since July 1. The agreement is for a one-year contract, which means even as this long round of negotiations and contract campaign actions wraps up, the locals are already gearing up to begin bargaining their next contract.

At the start of negotiations, the locals’ proposed language was around three key priorities: remote work with a binding appeals process for denied work-from-home requests, advancements on racial and social justice, and recognition for the sacrifices made by essential workers throughout the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Initially the university fought back, refusing to budge on any of the key priorities, in the face of a robust contract campaign which featured several significant actions including marching on the University of Minnesota Board of Regents, a large rally on campus and an informational picket. However, the union members were able to win gains on all of their key priorities.

The union members won raises and step increases coming out to 3.5% in increases including full retro pay back to the date of expiration. They also won two additional personal holiday days to be used between now and June 30. This demand was won as a direct result of the union’s demand for Juneteenth to be a university paid holiday. They also won new committees to address systemic racism and inequities at the university, rights of trans non-binary workers, and to address workplace bullying by supervisors.

One of the main demands throughout bargaining has been around workplace flexibility. The union members won a binding appeals process for any refused work-from-home requests. The union points out that this is of particular important for workers of color, disabled workers and parents who face significantly disparate impacts from rigid scheduling and location policies. Many of these workers have worked successfully from home for 21 months and have demonstrated that it can be done successfully.

The new contract also features $500 lump sums for LPNS and CMAs who have put their lives on the line every day to care for students, staff and faculty during the pandemic.

AFSCME Local 3800 President Cherrene Horazuk had the following to say: “This contract is a start. However, our work is not done. This contract does not represent the full scope of what our workers deserve, and the wage increase in particular fails to recognize rising inflation and the reality of being overworked and undervalued. Still, we fought for, and won enough to take this agreement. We made a decision to accept a one-year agreement in large part so that we can negotiate next year for the wage increases we need and deserve. We are ready to go back to the table in early 2022 to start negotiations for the next contract.” She went on to say, “We are proud to say we stood strong together and forced the U to make changes that would otherwise have gone unrealized. Thank you to all the members who took action by attending a rally, disrupting the Board of Regents meeting, organized to get the word out to co-workers, and advocated for a better contract. We could not have done this without that solidarity.”

The AFSCME University of Minnesota bargaining team is unanimously recommending a yes vote to accept this contract even as they vow to continue the fight for what their workers deserve as they pivot to bargaining their next contract.

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