Union pay increases slowly at U

In the past decade, faculty and staff members have received higher boosts for wages.

Brian Edwards

As wages continue to grow at a steady pace for many employees at the University of Minnesota, those represented by some unions are being left behind. 
 
For the past six years, administrators, faculty and staff have had wages increase by more than 2 percent, while members of the Teamsters Local 320 have had their pay increase by about 1 percent, according to University data. 
 
Since 2014, administrators, faculty and civil service staff have seen a 2.33 percent average wage bump. If current negotiations between Teamsters and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800, 3937 and 3801 stand — which have been offered raises between .25 percent and .75 percent — the unions would experience an average pay increase of .875 percent.
 
University union concerns over perceived unfair treatment mirror national trends, said Barb Kucera, director of the Labor Education Service at the University’s Carlson School of Management, adding that unions as a whole have grown weaker over the years. 
 
“Historically, unions have provided pretty good wages and benefits through their contracts with things like paid sick leave, and now we are seeing people have to fight for things like that,” she said, noting that anti-union policies in Wisconsin have started to cripple unions. 
 
Among the reasons unions have struggled to achieve pay goals, Kucera said, is that rising health care costs nationwide have forced employers to offer smaller wage bumps to counter the increased cost of health care.
 
As the Teamsters and AFSCME unions at the University continue to negotiate for higher wages and more benefits, they have upped collaboration between the groups. Last week, the two groups rallied together before leaders met with University administrators to continue labor negotiations. 
 
Leaders of the unions say the University is not doing enough to help sustain workers who are struggling to support themselves.
 
“These are folks that clean buildings, feed students, clean animal facilities and take care of farms,” said Brian Aldes, secretary and treasurer for Teamsters Local 320. “They aren’t the most visible people at the University.” 
 
AFSCME Local 3800 President Cherrene Horazuk said AFSCME and Teamsters Local 320 want a 5 percent raise, along with increased paternity leave and reinstatement of the Regents Scholarship.
 
Aldes said the current offer isn’t keeping pace with cost of living, and some workers are struggling to stay afloat.
 
The average cost of living for a married, single-income worker with one child in Minnesota is about $51,000 per year. The Teamsters average wage is about $45,000 per year.
 
“Even for people who are at the top of the pay scale [among union represented employees], [the University’s current offer] amounts to about 68 cents a day,” she said. “It doesn’t even amount to enough to get a one-way bus pass.”
 
The University declined to comment for this story, citing the ongoing negotiations with the unions.
 
Earlier this year, the University’s Board of Regents approved a 2 percent wage increase for all non-union employees at the school.