Union to announce strike vote results today

Jessica Weaver

The University’s largest employee union will announce strike-vote results today.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800, the union of 1,800 University clerical workers, voted Wednesday and Thursday on the University’s final contract offer. If they reject the offer, workers could strike as early as Oct. 13.

If members vote to strike, students could be discouraged from attending classes, there could be longer lines in University

cafeterias, some custodial work might be left undone, and the University could see its first picket lines since January 1944.

“Strikes at universities are not that frequent,” history professor Hy Berman said. “If the clerical workers don’t go to work, that could have a very disruptive impact.”

The strike of Building Service Employees Local 113 during World War II disrupted life at the University, according to articles from The Minnesota Daily, the Minneapolis Morning Tribune and the St. Paul Dispatch.

Workers went on strike after unsatisfying labor negotiations. Union members wanted higher wages and a committee to

share their grievances with the Board of Regents, the Minneapolis Morning Tribune reported.

At the time, municipal workers were paid approximately $100 per month, compared to then-University President Walter Coffey, who received $18,000 per year.

Picket lines circled the University and farm campus after unicipal workers voted to strike Sept. 29, 1942.

Patients had to be discharged or relocated from University hospitals because the skeleton crew of 20 employees was not enough to care for all patients. Normally, 150 workers shared the daily duties of the hospital.

Out of approximately 450 service employees at the University, three dissented from the strike.

Then-Gov. Harold Stassen intervened in negotiations, and workers agreed to return to work as long as Stassen worked with the regents to resolve the dispute.

The strike did not officially end until Oct. 23, when the union accepted the regents’ proposal to form a committee to discuss labor disputes. A personnel officer was appointed to handle grievances of the nonacademic staff.

Still, negotiations were not entirely over. Conflicts about salaries continued to flare up over the next 18 months.

In January 1944, the union went on strike again because of failure to reach compromise. The strike cancelled classes and disrupted University hospitals. Patients were discharged until the American Red Cross provided additional staff support. Soldiers helped with maintenance duties.

The strike was resolved, but negotiations between the regents and workers continued for months. Tensions flared again in December 1944, but the issue was finally resolved.

If AFSCME Local 3800 votes to strike, it will be part of an increasing movement among union workers at universities, said history professor David Chang. The union also represents primarily women and service industry workers, who typically have not been associated with labor movements, he said.

“Our strike is about to make history at the University,” said Phyllis Walker, AFSCME Local 3800 president.