AFSCME and SDS in solidarity

It was a college administrator's nightmare: students and union employees, joining hands and supporting each other's issues. In recent weeks, Ohio University student groups have walked informational picket lines with OU union workers, protesting the layoff of 24 maintenance and housekeeping employees.

Yesterday, Local 1699 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) returned the favor, adding a few picketers to the 100 or more students who demonstrated on OU's College Green. The event was organized by Students for a Democratic Society.

"When the union ran into trouble ... the first two groups to come to our aid were SDS and the College Democrats," Dave Logan, president of the AFSCME Local, told the crowd. "You showed you believe in the union, and I want you to know, the union believes in the students."

The protesters had three demands: an end to OU's policy of limiting demonstrations to designated "free-speech zones"; the rewriting of the university's "Vision Ohio" strategic plan to include more democratic decision-making; and the rehiring of the laid-off workers from OU's Facilities Management department.

As some speakers noted, the protest itself violated school policy. Campus Police Chief Michael Martinsen, however, said he had decided to take no action as long as the event remained peaceful.

Union workers Tracy Wirick and Jeremy Moore, who both work in Facilities Management, said they think student support will help the union, and vice versa.

"I think at this point we're getting under (the administration's) skin a little bit," Wirick said.

After speeches, OU Provost Kathy Krendl agreed to answer questions and transmit the group's demands.

At a sit-down in the student center, Krendl told students she thinks they have more input into school policies than they claim, but that the administration can't give up final authority on budget decisions.

"I think you do have a say in this university," Krendl insisted. "But I think there are some things for which, actually, the administration and the board of trustees are fiscally responsible."

She added that the trustees want to open better lines of communication with students. For example, she noted the visits by board members to various colleges while in town for a meeting Thursday and yesterday.

"They feel also like there's been some anonymity on their part, and they don't like that," Krendl said.


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