Unions, state schedule negotiations

Robyn Repya

State mediators called all parties involved in the strike to meet at the bargaining table Thursday, marking the first attempt at talks since about 22,000 union employees took to the picket lines early this month.

Union officials and the Bureau of Mediation Services speculated the attacks on Afghanistan on Sunday would hurry negotiations.

“The state has indicated a willingness to meet anytime and looks forward to continuing talks,” said Laura Bishop, spokeswoman for the Statewide Strike Response Team.

Minnesota Sen. Mark Dayton (D) said in this strike everyone loses and meeting Thursday is three days too late.

“There’s no need to drag this on,” Dayton said. “The money’s there, they can find a middle ground.”

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 6 and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees went on strike Oct. 1.

Striking worker Aaron Tell, a state tax analyst, said the Thursday meeting will be a start.

“Lets go in, meet seriously and get it done,” he said.

Jim Monroe, MAPE executive director, said the association is cautiously optimistic.

“Hopefully there will be a negotiated settlement,” Monroe said, adding MAPE is fully prepared to talk. “I’m hoping the state is willing to dig deeper than they have to date.”

Monroe said Sunday’s attacks in Afghanistan put added pressure on the state and unions to come back to the bargaining table.

Patrick Harrington, mediation unit director, said the BMS has never dealt with national trauma and labor-management disputes. He said he doesn’t know if a state strike and U.S. military action abroad can co-exist but suspects the international events will speed up a deal.

“The pressure’s on and that’s what causes people to move,” he said.

Jerry Dasinger, a striking financial analyst for the Public Utilities Commission, said he too thought the latest developments in Afghanistan could affect negotiations.

“Strikers may be more willing to compromise on something different than they would without the war,” Dasinger said.

MAPE striker Pam Shubat, a toxicologist, said the U.S. military action has had an affect on strikers. “It’s just one more painful thing for all of us to be thinking about,” Shubat said.

Judy Gibson, also on strike, said she is glad the state is ready to talk about moving ahead, but she is still cautious.

“We’ll have to see what they offer,” she said.

Don Dinndorf, an AFSCME spokesman, said the association is just looking for a settlement its members can live with.

“The process of negotiation is compromise, and we’re only going to compromise to a certain degree,” Dinndorf said.

Gary Johnson, MAPE regional director for Region 5, said strikers have been waiting to go back to the bargaining table.

“We’re happy to go back if they’re ready to bargain,” Johnson said.