9/10/07

AFL-CIO's big plans for U. of Minnesota strike

The strike by clerical, technical and health care workers at the University of Minnesota enters its second week Monday, with numerous actions and support activities planned.

The workers, members of AFSCME Locals 3260, 3800, 3801 and 3937, went on strike Sept. 5 at campuses across the University of Minnesota system. Administrators claim only one-third of the 3,500 workers represented by those local unions have walked off the job; the union disputes that claim.

The workers are seeking pay increases to keep up with inflation. Workers and supporters held a rally Friday outside a session of the university's Board of Regents and more than 100 students interrupted the meeting. Five were arrested and jailed, but released Saturday.

Legislators also stepped up pressure on the university to offer a fair settlement.

In a letter addressed to the regents and University President Robert Bruininks, state Representatives Tom Rukavina and Mary Murphy, chairs of two key Minnesota House Higher Education Finance Committees, wrote in part, "We are deeply disappointed that thousands of university employees have been forced onto the picket lines due to the unwillingness of the university administration to provide adequate contact settlements for its clerical, technical and health care workers.

"For the first time in many years, the Minnesota Legislature provided the university with a generous 3.25 percent salary supplement. We expected those funds to be used to benefit all university employees. We can't understand how you can justify your minuscule offer of 2.25 percent on the salary schedule for your hardworking, dedicated employees."

Activities planned this week include:

Monday – Continued picketing with more elected officials and candidates, including U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken, slated to visit strikers.

Also on Monday, striking clerical workers in Duluth will hold a news conference to discuss support activities occurring at UMD's sister campus in Birmingham, England.

At 4:30 p.m. Monday, students will hold a solidarity and information meeting at the strike headquarters at University Baptist Church, 1219 University Ave. S.E., in Dinkytown.

Tuesday – Teach-ins about the strike are scheduled both Tuesday and Wednesday in the Twin Cities. University professors and instructors are expected to bring their classes to the teach-ins, held off campus at the Oak Street Cinema, 309 Oak St. S.E., Minneapolis.

Tuesday also will be "Teamster Tuesday." University employees represented by the Teamsters union, who recently reached an agreement with the university, will be encouraged to join strikers on the picketlines during their non-working hours.

At 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, the Faculty Solidarity Group with meet at the strike headquarters at University Baptist Church, 1219 University Ave. S.E., in Dinkytown.

Wednesday – Participants in the weekly peace vigil on the Marshall Ave.-Lake St. bridge will highlight the connection between the university strike and the war in Iraq. "In U.S. society, those with the fewest resources are expected to bear the brunt of U.S. war by fighting on the front lines; likewise, at the University of Minnesota, those who are least able are asked to bear the costs of the university," organizers said.

The vigil will start at 5 p.m. on the bridge and end with a march to Bruininks' house.

(workdayminnesota.org)

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