Strikers work with colleagues who stayed

Some try to preserve prestrike friendships, while others resent the “scabs” who kept their jobs and paychecks.

Jake Weyer

One week after returning to work, clerical employees once separated by picket lines are now working alongside each other again.

Throughout the 15-day strike by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Locals 3800 and 3801 – the unions representing approximately 1,900 clerical workers on four University campuses – more than half of the University clerical workers went to work each day. The unions were on strike over proposed health-care cost increases, wage freezes and benefits reductions.

Union members who crossed the picket lines upset some employees, but others have no hard feelings, even though all union members will receive the same contract regardless of whether they went on strike.

“It’s important for us to have good relationships with our co-workers now so next time in negotiations there will be a stronger effort to get a better contract,” said Danielle Gordanier, a medical transcriptionist for Boynton Health Service and an AFSCME Local 3800 member.

Gordanier said she is friends with her colleagues and she was willing to strike for those who could not. Gordanier said she has no hard feelings toward those who crossed picket lines.

“Personally, I just don’t like to argue,” she said. “There are some things that you just don’t argue with your friends about.”

Teresa Emde, an accounts specialist in the chemistry department, said out of three AFSCME Local 3800 members in her office, she was one of two who went on strike. She said there were no problems returning to work.

“We’re all pretty cool about the whole thing,” she said.

But not all clerical workers feel the same.

Lynne Johnsrud, a principal administrative specialist in the chemistry department, said some AFSCME Local 3800 members resent clerical workers who crossed the picket lines or were on strike but did not picket.

Johnsrud said she has casually encountered two AFSCME Local 3800 members who crossed the picket line since she returned.

“I greeted them,” she said. “But I was reserved.”

Johnsrud said she spoke with another union member who crossed the picket line and both handled themselves professionally.

“My hope is that we can all be professional and time will heal,” she said.

She said the strike was an energizing experience that formed camaraderie and new friendships.

“I feel that the people who didn’t participate missed out on all that,” she said.

“I don’t care to ever talk to someone who has crossed the picket line again. Ever,” said Kay Berzak, an outpatient clinic assistant for Boynton Health Service and a member of AFSCME Local 3260, the union representing more than 170 University health-care workers.

“Anyone who scabbed is now a ghost,” she said. “I don’t deal with ghosts.”