Thursday, August 30, 2007

We Support U of M Workers

Yesterday about 50 of us showed up at one of the major intersections of the University of Minnesota campus to hold up signs in support of the clerical and technical workers who will be going out on strike next week.

It was a lovely sunny day and traffic was extremely heavy. With the 35W bridge collapse, much of the downtown traffic is diverted to the Washington Avenue bridge over the Mississippi which leads right through the middle of the West Bank and East Bank campuses of the Uni.

I've done a lot of "bannering" -- holding up signs for a particular cause -- on street corners over the years, and this one was fairly successful. I hold the sign up high and try to make contact with people driving by. Some are confused, many wave, honk or give a thumbs up. Only two shook their heads negatively. They were white men in fancy cars. Fuck 'em.

There is an on-line petition I urge you to sign here.

We call on the University Administration to avert a strike by the clerical, technical and healthcare workers, represented by AFSCME. The University can stop a strike by offering a wage increase that puts real money on the table, and stops the downward slide in standard of living for the University's lowest-paid workers.

Money was allocated from the state legislature to pay for staff and employee wage increases. Other employee groups have gotten their raises, all of them bigger than what has been offered to AFSCME workers. Now is the time to extend a real wage offer to these workers, before a strike leaves the University to start the new school year understaffed and in a climate of labor unrest.

Moreover, we urge the University to stop attempts to eliminate the value of annual step increases by giving smaller and smaller across-the-board increases. Step increases are compensation for accumulated skills and long-term commitment to University jobs. Employees wait years to reach the tops of their pay scales, which represent the true value of their work. Given turnover among employees, and the number of employees at the top of their step ranges, there is no significant cost to the University for step increases.

Leave steps out of the discussion, and offer University AFSCME employees a general wage increase that maintains a quality standard of living, catching up and keeping up with inflation.

Again, if you care about low-wage workers, please sign the petition.

For information about the community strike support group, read more here.