AFSCME looks to Teamsters contract in own negotiation

Local Teamsters members said the settlement was a “huge” setback.

Angela Gray

For its final proposal, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union dropped all noneconomic issues and are demanding a replication of the Teamsters contract settlement.

The University Teamsters settled for a 2.5 percent wage increase and retroactive pay back to July 2005, a 2 percent wage increase for 2006, a 1 percent wage increase for 2007 and a signing bonus, said Erik Jensen, Teamsters Local 320 steward in the housing department and a bargaining committee member.

Jensen said no union wants to accept anything less than what another union receives.

“If the Teamsters were in the same predicament as the AFSCME union members, you bet we’d ask for the same if not more,” he said.

Sue Mauren, secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 320, said most of the members were happy with the Teamsters settlement.

“The majority of our negotiating committee felt comfortable recommending the contract terms to the Teamster union members,” she said.

But David Skeie, Teamster Local 320 member, called the Teamsters settlement a “huge” setback.

“The contract might look good on paper, but when the health care premiums and past internal political setbacks are added, it’s a very different picture,” Skeie said.

He said that despite their less-than-perfect contract, he understands why AFSCME union members are fighting for the same terms.

“Negotiations have been dragged on for so long,” he said. “It won’t be pleasant fall picketing – it will be snowy, icy, sub-zero temperatures picketing.”

He said the longer AFSCME union members try to negotiate with the University, the more it will hurt the union.

“Strategically, the AFSCME union members should have grinded things to a halt, shutting down campus during orientation and the first week of school,” he said. “And more importantly, costing good money from the University for every hour the strike continued.”

Skeie said AFSCME union members invited Teamsters delegates and members to stand as a united front in the beginning of the negotiations.

“The Teamsters leadership was reluctant to join forces and never ended up working together,” he said. “They wanted nothing to do with AFSCME.”

Mauren said the Teamsters wanted to focus on resolving their own union issues themselves.

“Throughout the negotiating process, most of the unions still communicate and support each other to some degree,” she said.

Skeie said there are different types of negotiating styles unions use and some work while others don’t.

“(AFSCME Local 3800 President) Phyllis Walker uses good, old-fashion confrontation and very forward approaches to negotiating, and the Teamsters might have wanted to use a different approach,” Skeie said.

Jensen said the Teamsters should have worked closely with AFSCME union members.

“Strategically, unions that work together are stronger,” he said. “I’d like to know why we chose not to stand as a united front.”

Skeie said it is “positive” the AFSCME local units are united.

“The leadership is strong; I admire Phyllis Walker in trying the best she can to fight for her union members,” he said.

Skeie said it is “regrettable” the two unions did not unite, but wishes the AFSCME union members the best of luck in their fight.

“If things came down to a strike, the Teamsters will still be there in support of a good, fair contract, in the snow, shivering in the cold.”