The University administration’s disrespectful wage proposal: we’re worth more!

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AFSCME represented Clerical, Technical and Healthcare Workers have been in negotiations for the past month. During the first three rounds of bargaining,  the U did not present a wage proposal, stating that they would not be able to do so until after the Board of Regents voted on a budget on June 20.

 

In our last negotiations session on June 26,  the University negotiators, Rachel Domaszek and Kari Seime, opened with a wage proposal of 0.1%.  That’s right, 1/10th of 1%.  A quick calculation puts that at about 2 cents an hour or a whopping  $1.62 per two pay cycles, or $111,000 for all 2700 AFSCME members for an entire year. Their wage proposal only addressed the first year of our contract. They were unclear about whether their year two offer is 0% or blank.

 

The scandal-plagued University administration has again started negotiations on a disrespectful and disingenuous foot.  They opened wage negotiations with an insulting offer and tried to justify the proposal by saying we should feel lucky to have health insurance and that the political climate is scary and therefore we shouldn’t expect raises, or six weeks paid parental leave for all parents, or any other language proposals we have made.

 

Let’s put this into a couple of points of context:

 

  1. We all know that the Regents approved a budget with 2% salary increases in it. Other employee groups are receiving notice of their increases this week. We view the 2% allocation as the starting point for our wage negotiations.

  2. State employees just reached agreement on their contracts, which have 2% increases in the first year and 2.5% in year two, on top of annual step increases, which are generally larger than step increases at the U.  

  3. The University of Minnesota only receives 17% of it’s funding from state appropriations. Unlike other state agencies, the U also has a massive and growing endowment that currently provides $21 million in unrestricted funds. The U is also about to go public on a multi-year fundraising campaign which will bring in even larger sums of unrestricted funds.

  4. The University of Minnesota is self-insured. We learned about a month ago when getting a report on the health care funds from the Director of Employee Benefits that since 2002 the University has made $29 million in earnings on health insurance funds. These earnings have gone into the General Fund.

 

The fact is that frontline workers are falling behind. Experienced workers are not being paid commensurate with their knowledge and effort and the value of all our wages has gone down compared to their worth a decade ago. Our AFSCME negotiating committee stands firm with our wage proposals: 5% across the board for each year of the contract, and a plan to fix our step system so that it does not take an entire career to get to the top of the pay scale. The U agreed on a general plan to reduce the number of steps several contracts ago, but has refused to move forward. It is past time for them to do so. Frontline workers need money across the board and at the top of our pay scales, not disrespectful and disingenuous proposals.

 

Frontline workers, members of AFSCME and Teamsters, represent the greatest diversity in the University workforce. Unionized workers have a significantly higher percentage of people of color than other employee groups. AFSCME members are predominantly female, especially clerical workers, who are more than 80% female. This administration has paid out huge sums of money to deal with repeated complaints and lawsuits regarding sexual harassment and discrimination. Yet their wage opener to a predominantly female workforce is 2 cents an hour. The University administration has stated a commitment to increasing racial diversity on campus, yet their wage opener to its most diverse workforce is an insult.

 

The University apparently thinks that frontline workers are either not paying attention or don’t care about our salary increases, when nothing could be further from the truth.  AFSCME and Teamsters are standing together for our standard of living and will not be pressured into accepting a paltry wage offer. Show the administration that you need a real and respectful wage increase: wear your AFSCME t-shirt or button every Friday to show your solidarity with your coworkers. Keep an eye out for future actions and activities you can take to demand raises and respect!