In solidarity with AFSCME

We support striking workers’ efforts for a fair wage settlement.

The first days of a new semester are always somewhat unruly as students return to school or pile into the residence halls for the first time. This year promises to be more so than most. Some 3500 members of the University community – clerical, health care and technical workers in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union will be striking tomorrow.

The sticking point on negotiations throughout the summer has been whether “step increases”, the annual pay raises that go to employees for their skills and experience, should be considered part of the overall wage offer, which mainly covers the increase in costs of living. The University’s offer, not including these step increases, is a 2.25 percent increase to the technical and clerical workers, and 2.5 percent to the health care workers, lower than the 3.25 percent plus step increases that other non-University state workers received this year.

Blurring these pay lines won’t change the fact that the University is offering their employees less than the state, while still handing out double digit increases for high-level administrators. University President Bob Bruininks will receive a 10 percent pay raise next year and a 7.5 percent one the following year, bringing his salary to more than $450,000 a year. As the University will be the first to point out, the market for university presidents is different from that of the striking workers. Maybe so, but this race to the top for the administrators and race to the bottom for everyone else is morally indefensible all the same, and certainly no way to run a “Top Three Research University.”

These are the people who do everything from making sure our books are available at the bookstore and coordinating where our classes meet, to making sure the right tooth is pulled when we visit the dental clinic. They deserve better for the services they perform at the University. We encourage the student body to support their cause, but even if you don’t, please show dignity and respect to these striking workers, who maybe days or weeks from now will be doing the thankless jobs that keep this University running.