Members and allies of AFSCME at UMD (clerical, tech and health care workers) held an informational picket earlier this month, calling on the administration to pay a living wage and make benefits affordable as it negotiates its contract. The rally was held in solidarity with members of Teamsters Local 320, which represents service workers at the University of Minnesota, which had announced workers will strike at the university’s two largest campuses for four days this week before reaching a deal on a one-year contract.
AFSCME was scheduled to go into mediation to find more common ground in its negotiations. “We want to show we’re willing to stand up for our standard of living,” said Andrea Sande, president of AFSCME Local 3801. One of the biggest points of contention in negotiations is the wage proposal; the union is pushing for a $3/hour increase across the board, while the administration is countering with 3.85 percent across the board. “That’s less than 50 cents an hour for some of our lowest-paid members,” Sande said. “It sounds good, but it doesn’t keep up with inflation.”
A $3/hour increase would mean about another $500 a month, and Sande shared some of the changes that would make in members lives: replacing an unreliable vehicle, paying rent, getting kids into extracurricular activities, and “helping pay my kid’s UMD tuition.” Other disagreements include getting Juneteenth as a paid holiday, increasing augmentation for bilingual staff members to $1/hour to compensate for on-the-job translation they may do, and paid time off for tribal members to participate in tribal elections, similar to state and federal election.
AFSCME leaders also provided information pointing out that the university has added 59 academic administrative positions since the pandemic began, the only employee group to gain in number, while 290 AFSCME positions have been lost in the same amount of time. Other losses included 176 Teamsters, 121 civil service, 49 faculty and 84 professional, the union said.