Union supporters rally at Coffman

Jessica Weaver

Students, faculty, staff and other community members rallied Tuesday to support the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800 outside Coffman Union.

AFSCME Local 3800 represents more than 1,800 clerical workers at the University. Its members are voting Wednesday and Thursday on a contract that has rally organizers dissatisfied. Speakers said the current contract’s health-care coverage, job security and wage policies are unacceptable.

“Our hope is we don’t have to take it to a strike. Hopefully, this rally and a strong vote will cause more negotiations,” said Jess Sundin, principal administrative specialist in the physiology department and an AFSCME Local 3800 member.

Union members who attended voiced concerns over the current contract.

“This is the worst it’s been. I’ve been in on the first two negotiations teams, but this is the worst I’ve seen in terms of wages and health care,” former University employee Mary Anne Beneke said. Beneke said she has been involved with AFSCME Local 3800 since its establishment at the University in February 1991.

State Rep. Karen Clark, D-Minneapolis, also spoke in support of union members.

“I’m here in solidarity with you,” Clark said.

Many speakers said the union needs to remain solid throughout the voting process and possible strike. Representatives from other unions, like Teamsters Local 320, said they would support AFSCME Local 3800.

Before the rally, students marched across the Washington Avenue Bridge.

Members of the student groups Socialist Alternative and the University DFL participated in the march and rally.

“We support basically all the efforts of the union. If they strike, we’ll stand with them,” said Andy Pomroy, a University DFL member and liberal arts senior. Pomroy said supporting the union was the general consensus of University DFL members.

Members of the Socialist Alternative group said they are also active in supporting union efforts.

“We’ve been passing out fliers and petitions. We’re encouraging students to talk to professors about holding classes off campus,” said Canyon Lalama, a fourth-year liberal arts student.

“I think it’s a horrible, horrible contract,” Lalama said. “These are the people that make the University run.”

Alec Johnson, a Socialist Alternative member, said the University could choose to offer workers a different contract.

“Our opinion is the University finds ways to fund what they want to fund,” said Johnson, a fifth-year student in German, Spanish and English.

Students helped with sign-making, distributing fliers and started a petition. They currently have more than 500 signatures.

“There’s a ton of student support – both undergraduate and graduate,” Sundin said.