Workers’ union protests ‘no new taxes’ at Capitol rally

University technical and clerical workers joined approximately 1,000 union members from throughout the state to lobby March 16 at the State Capitol.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5 held its Day on the Hill to protest Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s pledge of no new taxes.

The council represents more than 52,000 workers from throughout the state. The union also represents more than 3,000 University employees.

Members from AFSCME Locals 3937, 3800 and 3260, representing the University’s technical, clerical and health workers, respectively, joined the other union members, carrying signs with such slogans as “tax the rich” and “no new Band-Aids.”

“We’re sick of all these ‘no new taxes’ gimmicks,” said Don Dinndorf, AFSCME Council 5 communications director. “We want the governor and the Legislature to look at real leadership and not governing with slogans.”

Dinndorf said it helps when legislators can see their constituents.

“It puts a face on the state employees,” he said.

Jim Niland, AFSCME Council 5 legislative and political action director, said that at least three-quarters of AFSCME’s members will be in contract negotiations this year.

This includes the University’s union members, whose contracts end June 30.

Brad Sigal, AFSCME Local 3800 treasurer, said it is important to work for funding at the state level but also necessary to put pressure on the University.

“By refusing to deal in a real way with the budget, (Pawlenty) forces organizations to operate with less than what they’d like,” Sigal said. “But it’s the University’s job to work with the money they get, and they need to get their priorities in order.”

Sigal said he questioned the University’s continuing push for an expensive on-campus football stadium in the face of the wage freeze its lowest-paid workers have been working under because of a lack of funds.

Mike Dean, the University Legislative Network grassroots coordinator, said there was no coordination between AFSCME and the University in either organization’s recent efforts at lobbying.

But Dean said it is important for legislators to hear from all members of the University community.

“We think it’s extremely important that as many staff members as possible advocate for the University,” he said.