Numbers foggy in clerical union strike

After six days of the clerical workers’ strike, one thing ought to be exceedingly clear – strike statistics are quite foggy.

The University reported that 63 percent of clerical union members worked Tuesday and 713 were on strike. The numbers do not differentiate between full and partial union membership and therefore are misleading. There are 1,336 voting members and 1,900 total in American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Locals 3800 and 3801 combined. Seven hundred thirteen strikers would be the equivalent of 54 percent of voting members.

On Thursday, Labor and Community Co-Chairwoman Jessica Sundin estimated that 70 percent of AFSCME 3800 voting members (1,156) are on strike. Although four percent more of both unions were striking Thursday than Tuesday, and Sundin’s estimate included just the larger union, gaging from Tuesday’s numbers, Sundin’s estimate still appears that it would be quite a bit off.

Some discrepancies also result from the strategic description of the same information. For instance, 1,000 picketers doesn’t mean 1,000 full union members. It simply means there are 1,000 people standing with signs – regardless of AFSCME Local 3800 affiliation.

For the external observer trying to grasp the success of the strike, perhaps the best thing to do is ignore the numbers and start forming an opinion on the issues. Neither increasing bandwagon enthusiasm nor capitulation because of declining support are viable foundations of opinions – for, according to the statistics, neither and both are happening.