Despite relentlessly soggy weather, members of AFSCME Locals 3800 and 3937, along with our brothers and sisters from Teamsters Local 320, picketed outside administrators’ offices at the U of M’s Minneapolis campus Tuesday afternoon. The workers, joined by students and community members, are standing together to demand livable wages and reasonable family leave policies for frontline workers at the University.
AFSCME members at the University of Minnesota have been in contract negotiations since June. For many of these workers, the employer’s current offer of less than a one percent wage increase doesn’t even cover increasing costs of transportation to and from work.
“At least once a month I don’t have enough to make ends meet,” said Nicole Masika, a technical worker in Local 3937. “I have to use my credit card. On top of that, I just had to add my son to my health insurance policy. The raise they’ve offered doesn’t even come close to covering that cost.”
The University’s refusal to pay a living wage to frontline workers is especially insulting, given recent raises awarded to top administrators who already make triple-digit salaries.
“We know the University has the money. It would cost $100,000 for every clerical worker at the University to make $15 an hour, and $175,000 to provide each AFSCME member with six weeks of paid parental leave.” said Cherrene Horazuk, president of AFSCME Local 3800. “It’s appalling that the U has spent over $2 million on raises, buyouts, and sexual discrimination lawsuits, but won’t spend a fraction of that on raises for more than 4,000 workers who keep this University running.”
Workers chanted and carried signs between Morrill Hall, which houses the office of the president of the University, and Coffman Memorial Union, where activists from Students for a Democratic Society joined in the march.
Local 3800's Missy Bernard: Less than one percent won't pay the rent!
Missy Bernard, a clerical worker from the St. Paul University campus, drove over to Minneapolis to participate in the picket. Because of eliminated and unfilled positions in her office, she said, her workload has increased by at least 75 percent since she started her job three years ago – without a pay increase. Bernard took to the stage to call out University administrators on an unfair parental leave policy that leaves many frontline workers in a bind when families grow. While UMN managers get six weeks of paid parental leave, clerical workers only get two. “It’s disgusting. We need livable wages and parental leave so we can take care of our children,” Bernard said.
As the workers, students, and community members marched across campus Tuesday, they chanted: “President Kaler, hear our call! Your crummy offer is way too small!” The pressure is on for the University to make a decent offer of raises – and respect – to the frontline workers who keep the U running. AFSCME members go back to the negotiations table in December.