Supporting a Strong Union

AFSCME Council 5 voted to increase the per cap (per person) rate for all AFSCME members and fee payers in Minnesota and this went into effect on January 1, 2015. Local 3800 voted in November to adjust the maximum dues and fee rate. Due to the time required for the international union to approve the constitutional language and for legally required notice periods, the Council 5 increase and local increase occurred separately, rather than in the same pay period.
 
Per the Local 3800 constitution, the Council 5 per cap increase automatically is passed on to members and fee payers. However, due to the formula in the Local 3800 constitution previously used to determine the maximum rate paid by members and fee payers, members and fee payers in the top half of the pay scale would not have seen an increase, though members and fee payers in the lower half of the pay scale would have seen an increase. At the November 2014 membership meeting, AFSCME 3800 members voted to increase the maximum rate paid by members and fee payers so that those in the higher end of the pay scales contribute an equal percentage of salary as those in the lower half of the pay scales. AFSCME 3800 members also voted for a small increase in the percentage paid by everybody, and the rate was changed from 1.67% to 1.75% of the biweekly gross pay, until the maximum rate is reached. Many people will see an increase of $2 or less per paycheck. The maximum increase will be approximately $6 per paycheck. 
 
In our entire history, our local has not increased the amount of dues or fees paid that go to our local. The only increases members and fee payers have had are due to increases from the International and Council.
 
If the maximum rate paid by members and fee payers had not increased, the Local would still have to pay the increased Council 5 per cap amount for everybody, resulting in the Local losing nearly 80% of our budget. Such a cut in income would force our local to layoff our staff organizer, require our negotiating committee to negotiate on nights and weekends after a full day of work, and would drastically impact our ability to organize for better wages and benefits.  We analyzed numerous options and voted to adjust the dues and fees structure in a way that we believe is the most equitable solution for all members and fee payers.
 
Since we unionized 22 years ago, our collective efforts as clerical workers have:
  • Won increases in the non-student minimum wage at the University from $7 to our current $14 minimum.
  • Seen an increase in the average clerical salary to $19.63 an hour.
  • Blocked and rolled back numerous efforts by the University to cut our benefits and pay, including maintaining our automatic 2% annual step increases, which the University has attempted to eliminate in numerous rounds of negotiations.
  • Reduced a proposed 10-day furlough to 3-days.
  • Won the restoration of the Regents Scholarship for those working on first degrees.
 
We know that when we negotiate our contract, our wage gains for clerical workers also set the bar for our civil service coworkers who are not unionized and are not able to collectively bargain. Though we have not stopped all health insurance cost-shifting schemes of the administration, we have fought and will continue to organize so our benefits plans will stay among the best and most affordable.  We have challenged and continue to challenge the increase in high paid administration at the expense of students, front line staff, and faculty. We are deeply committed to a vision of the University that provides quality affordable education for all Minnesotans and that conducts research and service that will benefit the state of Minnesota, and not just corporate interests. In the words of one of our West Bank members, “We are the voice of conscience at the University.”
 
The increases that were voted on by our membership  will guarantee the resources for strengthening our local and our collective efforts to maintain and improve wages, benefits and working conditions for our members, as well as our efforts to maintain the University’s land grant mission. 
 
We know that any increase in costs is difficult, and thank you for your ongoing support for your coworkers and your union. The University administration looks at who are members in full and who are only fee payers. And if they see that people are not members, they make the assumption that non-members or fee payers do not care about their wages or benefits.Being a full member actually conveys your commitment to the financial advancement of yourself and your coworkers.
 
In the next few weeks, we will be surveying members about what's important to you for contract negotiations. I hope that you fill out the survey and share your opinion about wages, health care, and other working conditions. 
 
 Also, if you haven't had a chance, please check out the video from our University Unions United staff forum with legislators a few weeks ago (www.afscme3800.org). 150 AFSCME and Teamster members were joined by a number of state Senators and Representatives at a summit to share the perspectives of frontline staff. Our coworkers' testimonies were profoundly moving and have motivated the legislators to question the administration at every Higher Ed Committee meeting to demand better wages, equitable benefits, and job security for frontline staff.
 
in solidarity,
Cherrene Horazuk
President, AFSCME 3800