MSA votes to back unions in negotiations

While AFSCME was represented at the Forum meeting, no officials spoke on behalf of the University.

Members of the Minnesota Student Association Forum voted Tuesday to support the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in the unions’ ongoing negotiations with the University.

The position statement, which passed on a 26-6 vote with two abstentions, calls on University officials and employees to “negotiate a fair contract that reasonably guarantees a livable wage, affordable health insurance, and job security and opportunities for advancement in an effort to avoid a possible strike.”

MSA Vice President Colin Schwensohn said he was unhappy with the way the University has treated its employees.

“We want everybody involved to be treated with respect,” he said.

AFSCME representatives answered questions during Forum. However, no officials spoke on behalf of the University.

While most Forum members spoke in support of the unions and the idea of “fair negotiations,” several students, such as Rick Orr, argued the extent to which MSA should support the union.

“Financially, the details could hurt the students,” he said. “The money has to come from somewhere; either tuition will go up, or if not, programs or something will be cut.”

While the statement doesn’t formally call MSA to action, it does allow for a more direct dialogue with administration about the unions, said MSA President Emily Serafy Cox.

At a recent meeting, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly considered a similar position statement.

After several revisions, assembly members approved a statement calling for both the union and the University to negotiate fairly in a timely fashion to avoid a strike.

“We’re calling on the University community to reach a peaceful settlement,” said GAPSA President Karen Buhr.

Candace Lund, president of the technical union AFSCME Local 3937, said the unions appreciate the student support.

“Two years ago, during the clerical strike, student support was a huge help,” she said.

She said it is a positive thing to see students recognizing the importance of union issues.

“A lot of AFSCME employees are former University graduates and it is in their best interest (to support the unions),” she said.

Lori Vicich, director of communications for the University Office of Human Resources said the University was completely unaware of MSA’s proposed position statement to support the AFSCME union members.

“MSA never contacted the University for our perspectives,” she said. “It comes to us as a complete surprise.”

U issues union final offer

On Monday, the University presented AFSCME its final offers.

The AFSCME bargaining teams unanimously voted to recommend that their members reject the University’s proposals.

Lund said the University’s final offers contain less money than what every other employee group had settled on.

“We have weighed out the Teamsters contract with our own and we know the proposals are not equal,” she said. “They seem to think if they repeat something enough times it will come true.”

Lund said the union leaders must clarify the terms of the University’s proposals to their locals and explain why the proposals are unacceptable.

The next steps depend on feedback from the AFSCME union members.

“In this round of negotiations, the (University’s) philosophy may have changed, but the finances have not,” she said. “We just cannot accept their final offer.”

Vicich said the University is pleased with its final proposals to the unions.

“We think it is a good proposal, and again, we are hopeful the unions will vote to settle,” she said.

Vicich said the University’s final proposal includes “across the board increases and steps.”

“It is all there in the contract,” she said.

Vicich said that lately the AFSCME union members have pinned their contract proposal against the Teamsters contract settlement.

“The Teamsters contract financially costs the University less money.”

She said in terms of money, the AFSCME proposal and the Teamsters contract are identical.

“The University’s next step is to figure out where each side stands and then determine what to do,” she said.

“Right now we are just trying to get our ducks in a row.”