Union talks wind down

by Jessica Weaver

If union employees and the University do not reach an agreement by midnight Monday, union leaders say, the University will see its first strike in more than 50 years.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800 – the union of 1,800 full-time clerical workers – met with University management Sunday afternoon for contract negotiations.

University management and AFSCME Local 3800’s negotiating team will meet with a state mediator Monday. AFSCME Local 3800 negotiating committee members also plan to attend a pre-strike rally at noon Monday on Northrop Plaza.

Going into negotiations Sunday, Phyllis Walker, AFSCME Local 3800 president, said the union’s committee was willing to sit down with management.

Walker said the union made a proposal Sunday and expects to hear the University’s response to their proposal Monday.

Carol Carrier, vice president for human resources, said the University wants to reach an agreement.

Sunday afternoon, a mediator worked with the groups separately to find out what each party wants in a contract. The University and AFSCME Local 3800 will not meet face-to-face during the mediation process.

“It’s kind of like the discovery period in the case,” said Sandi Sherman, an AFSCME Local 3800 member. “(Monday) is really the meat of it.”

Negotiations are typically held close to a strike date to create pressure, John Kuderka from the Bureau of Mediation Services said in a recent interview.

Union members spent the weekend preparing for a possible strike. On Saturday, union members and supporters met at University Baptist Church – the union’s strike headquarters – to assign picket areas and picket captains, and coordinate flyer and poster distribution.

“I’m going to be talking to students about how they can be involved,” said Susan Kang, teaching assistant and political science graduate student.

Graduate students, law students and former union members showed up to share their support for the union.

“Some of my professors are having class off campus, some aren’t, so I’ll have to make a decision,” law student Kate Deters said.

Another University employee union, AFSCME Local 3260, voted Wednesday to reject the University’s contract offer and approve a strike.

The union represents 174 clinical workers. It has not filed an intent to strike with the state’s Bureau of Mediation Services.