Unions rally for better benefits, more respect

U clerical workers rallied Tuesday for higher wages and more respect.

Erica Mahoney

In the midst of a monthslong bargaining process, University of Minnesota staff are calling for higher wages and increased benefits through their labor unions.
 
Dozens of unionized workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800,  Local 3937 and Teamsters Local 320 rallied in front of Morrill Hall Tuesday afternoon as negotiations between the unions and University administrators resumed. The groups hoped to use the event to gain support for frontline workers and their requests of the University. 
 
“We’ve been in contract negotiations since this summer,” said Cherrene Horazuk, a clerical worker at the University’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs and president of AFSCME Local 3800. “We are asking for raises so that our members can survive, so that frontline workers at the University can make a decent living and to be treated with respect on the job.”
 
Among the goals the unions hope to achieve in negotiations are an increase in paid paternal leave, more respect, increased wages and restoration of the Regent’s scholarship — which would allow University staff to pay for college.
 
So far, the University has denied all of the union’s demands, Horazuk said. She said that the current wage proposal being offered by the University, which is between a 0.25 percent and 0.75 percent increase, is insulting.
 
“Even if you’re at the top of the pay scale for a clerical worker, [that increase] does not even provide enough money to get a one-way bus fare, and we find that 
unacceptable,” she said.
 
While about 650 administrators at the University make more than $100,000 a year, about 475 frontline workers make less than $15 an hour, according to documents passed out at the event. 
 
University spokesman Steve Henneberry said the University was unable to comment because the school is still negotiating with the unions. 
 
Though Brian Aldes, secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 320, said they will be persistent as they continue to push for their demands, but they need to do it in a 
respectful way. 
 
“We are committed to this fight, and we are sick and tired of working people being held back and being taken advantage of,” he said at the rally. “We will continue, with pride, to maintain [the University’s] facilities, we will continue to serve the students, and we will continue to provide the support that makes this institution so great.”
 
Horazuk said the rally could have an impact on the bargaining process, which began this summer, if the University administrators decide to pay attention.
 
“There’s plenty of money — the University just needs to choose where they spend it,” she said. “They need to put money on the table for frontline workers.”