U of M workers victory

MINNEAPOLIS – Striking clerical workers at the University of Minnesota have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract with the university administration and will return to work on Nov. 5. The 1,900 workers, members of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3800, had been on strike for 15 days.

Although details of the agreement remain undisclosed until all union members are fully informed about its contents, Phyllis Walker, president of Local 3800, told a news conference on Nov. 4, “We showed that when workers stand together, when we have the support of our communities, that we can stand up, we can fight, and we can win.” Walker, whose comments were reported by the Associated Press, added, “Clerical workers are being respected for what we have done.” Walker was surrounded by dozens of cheering union members who chanted and sang songs.

Union sources say the agreement includes step increases in wages and important non-wage benefits.

Negotiations resumed on Nov. 2, the first talks since the beginning of the strike on Oct. 21. Last week student supporters occupied the university president’s office, vowing not to leave until the administration agreed to resume negotiations.

Other students erected a small tent city outside the main administration building. On Oct. 30, a massive community and labor solidarity rally was held on the campus, ending with a festive march to the administration building to exchange messages of solidarity with students occupying the president’s office. That night, the students left the building victoriously after the administration announced it would resume negotiations. Similar solidarity actions took place on other campuses in the University of Minnesota system.

“This was so worth it,” Marlene Parkhurst, a 24-year employee who spent two weeks on the picket line told an AP reporter. “This was the best two weeks of my life and I think we really made a difference. It’s about time clerical workers get the recognition and respect we deserve.”

The author can be reached at marqu002@umn.edu