Student strike supporters occupy Morrill Hall

Some met with University officials in lieu of Bob Bruininks, who was out of town.

Tricia Michel

University students supporting striking clerical employees staged a sit-down in front of University President Bob Bruininks’ office Tuesday.

More than 70 University students and one retired clerical employee crowded the second floor of Morrill Hall to demand a meeting with Bruininks, who was out of town.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Locals 3800 and 3801, the unions representing approximately 1,900 full-time clerical workers on four University campuses, have been on strike since Oct. 21. According to the University News Service, 713 employees were on strike Tuesday.

Administrators contacted University police soon after students arrived because no one was aware of the protesters’ intentions, University Vice President and Chief of Staff Kathryn Brown said.

Greg Hestness, the University’s assistant vice president for public safety, said the police department was contacted as a safety precaution. He said all doors to Morrill Hall were locked and few people were allowed in or out of the building until it was evident there was not going to be an unlawful demonstration.

University administrators agreed to meet with about 17 students to discuss their concerns about the strike.

Brown, Executive Vice President and Provost Christine Maziar and Vice President for Human Resources Carol Carrier headed the informal meeting with the students, which lasted about 55 minutes.

The group asked the administration to go back to the negotiating table with the union.

The group brought up issues including job security for clerical workers, reductions in step increases and health-care premium increases. Students also said they were concerned about the amount of money the University spends on gardens and building renovations.

Student protester Emily Cox said the student-led group will station itself in Morrill Hall as long as the strike continues. Group members considered remaining in the building overnight but decided against it.

“We need to keep our numbers up and we don’t think that it is worth the risk to have students get arrested right now,” she said.

The demonstrators chanted as they filed out of Morrill Hall when the building closed at 6 p.m.

Those involved in the demonstration said student support for the clerical workers is important.

Graduate student Jeff Vockrodt said he supports University clerical workers by opting not to go to class.

“Walking the picket line is something worth doing,” Vockrodt said.