Effects of strike felt around campus

Mike Rose

While the loss of a large number of clerical, technical and health-care workers has affected the University, some facilities have managed better than others.

In a Sept. 5 press release, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union singled out various campus departments and offices they felt have been hit hardest by the strike, now entering its ninth day.

UMPD dispatchers

Among the first victories claimed by AFSCME was the loss of University police dispatchers.

Police Lt. Chuck Miner said emergency calls normally received by University Police Department will now be directed to the Minneapolis Police Department.

He said the two departments share a computer system, meaning the loss of UMPD dispatchers didn’t significantly delay emergency response time. Some UMPD officers also worked overtime on dispatch duty, he said.

“It has been challenging, but we persevered,” Miner said.

Facilities Management and Boynton Health Service

The two sides have debated the effect the strike has had on facilities management and Boynton Health Service.

On Wednesday, president of AFSCME Local 3800 Phyllis Walker said she was informed that Boynton wasn’t able to fill same-day prescriptions.

Dr. Ed Ehlinger, director of Boynton, disputed Walker’s claim.

“We’re very busy, (and) not as efficient,” he said. “(But) we are filling same-day prescriptions.”

AFSCME said facilities management, the department responsible for repairs and upkeep on campus, has had its emergency call center cleared of employees.

Dan Wolter, spokesman for the University, said the department has been operating with other civil service employees and hasn’t been heavily affected by the strike.

College of Veterinary Medicine

Located on the St. Paul campus, the College of Veterinary Medicine is one of the most heavily affected facilities, according to the release.

The clinics have virtually shut down, the document says, with only emergency patients being accepted. Appointments through Sept. 17 have been canceled.

Wolter confirmed AFSCME’s statement. He said the vet clinics are operating between 50 and 75 percent capability and have been among the hardest-hit by the strike.

School of Dentistry

The AFSCME statement also said two clinic floors at the School of Dentistry have been consolidated down to one.

However, Robert Hirsch, the director of the clinics, said AFSCME’s claim is not entirely factual.

“We still are functioning on all clinic floors,” he said.

Hirsch said the reception floors have been consolidated. The AFSCME workers in the clinic include hygienists, front-desk workers and faculty assistants, he said.

To cope with lost workers, Hirsch said some people have picked up additional jobs.

“Essentially, everyone’s chipping in,” he said.

Walker said the clinic might still be struggling even if they haven’t consolidated.

“It’s possible that maybe one floor is operating and maybe one isn’t,” she said.

Office of the Bursar

Two of the three University bursar offices have closed as a result of the strike. These offices provide financial services to students, staff and faculty.

The East Bank bursar’s office, located in Williamson Hall, remains open. They declined to answer direct media inquiries.

Wolter said the closing of the two offices has been inconvenient, but operations are still running smoothly. Drop boxes at the West Bank and St. Paul offices are available until the staff returns.

Campus libraries

According to the AFSCME release, Andersen Library has been cleared of technical and clerical workers.

Christopher James, the associate department director in the Office of the Librarian, said it is important to note that Andersen Library consists mainly of non-circulation material, meaning that they are not heavily affected by the loss of workers who handle book checkouts.

Wilson Library, which was also mentioned by AFSCME, has its circulation desks open, James said.

“The libraries are open; there are people at the desk,” he said.

Walker questioned the ability of the libraries to shift staff around.

“The University has the ability to put other people at the circulation desk,” she said, “but there may not be people there to help students.”

Although student employees have covered for many of the striking workers, library operations have slowed because of the strike, Wolter said.

The University’s Office of Human Resources reported there were 1,022 workers on strike Tuesday, down 38 from Monday.