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The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

Serving the UMN community since 1900

The Minnesota Daily

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Strike debated, compared to others

Students have said they are upset about the transit strike and some have talked about losing their jobs because of it.

Many said they want to know when the strike will end, but few people can say when that will happen.

Regardless of the inconveniences, officials said, the transit strike, in many ways, is not all that unusual.

University alumnus Brye Vankerk said that when she studied abroad in Europe she experienced three strikes.

“Strikes are a regular occurrence,” Vankerk said.

She said strikes happen often because there are many unions.

When she was in France, Vankerk said workers who put money in ATMs were on strike for a month. Another strike involved postal workers. She also said transit strikes happened frequently.

Noemie Thomas, a former University student from France, said rail-line strikes usually happen at least once per year. She said the strikes usually happen around January or February when negotiations of new contracts happen.

“As soon as you want to take away someone’s privileges, you are going to get a strike,” she said.

Thomas said that although workers and unions all demand fair contracts and privileges, people in Europe deal with the transit strikes differently than people do here.

She said because there are so many people in a dense area, people help each other out more.

“It affects everyone,” she said. “But you always find someone to drive you from somewhere to somewhere.”

But when people cannot help each other, she said traffic is awful. Transit strikes cause such an outrage, she said, that the issues are usually resolved within a few weeks.

“Way more strike because they know it’s going to be a big mess,” she said. “They make so much noise and it’s so messy they have to solve the issue quickly.”

Other strikes

Phyllis Walker, president of the America Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800, said this strike faces the same issues that the clerical workers faced last fall.

The union represents 1,700 University clerical workers and went on strike last fall for 15 days.

“It’s a fight to preserve affordable health care for all working people,” she said. “I see we struck for the same reason the transit workers are striking.”

John Budd, human resources professor at the Carlson School of Management, said health care is one issue many unions face.

One example, he said, is a recent grocery store workers strike in California. Budd said a common way for workers anywhere to voice their inconveniences is through striking.

“If you’re frustrated with health insurance, the appropriate target is the government and not the employer,” Budd said.

But, he said, strikes do not happen as often as one would think. He said that before 1980, approximately 3 percent of all contract negotiations in the United States resulted in strikes.

He said anyone working for the federal government, or anyone who works an essential job such as firefighters, prison guards or police cannot strike. But anyone else can, he said.

Budd said strikes happen now in less than 1 percent of all contract negotiations.

Because strikes are not as common as they used to be, he said, people might not strike for fear someone will replace them or their workplaces will close down.

“Employees are worried about losing their job,” Budd said. “This strike is similar to others in that way.”

But, he said, because it is difficult to replace public transit workers and it is unlikely the public transit system would close down, the union in this case has more power.

Time will tell

Though this strike is entering its 36th day, Budd said strikes usually last approximately two weeks.

“Typically what happens is after a week or so, the two parties start to change their attitude and start to loosen their position and say, ‘OK, we’ve made our point let’s see if we can get back to work,’ ” he said.

But they can go on for much longer. Budd said the grocery strike in California lasted five months. He said in 1985, Hormel workers went on strike for a year.

Budd said strikes have happened since the beginning of time.

“There’s been strikes as long as there have been people working for other people,” he said. “Workers protested through striking when they were building the pyramids. When child labor was a problem, children went on strike.”

But the politics of the situation are abnormal, he said.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 – which represents 2,150 Metro Transit workers – and the Metropolitan Council – which oversees Metro Transit – still refuse to budge.

“The union has to be able to save face. The union has to have something to go back to its membership and say, ‘We’ve won something, let’s settle the strike,’ ” Budd said. “Met Council has been so public in saying what it can and cannot do that it’s difficult for them to back off that.”

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