Sunday, September 16, 2007

Comments of John Marty
On Employee Strike at BigU

State senator John Marty has a lot to do with funding for BigU at the Minnesota state legislature. I am sure that OurLeader is aware of this. When he makes his next sack cloth and ashes trip over to the legislature, I hope he keeps Marty's recent remarks in mind.

16 September 2007

The current University of Minnesota strike is typical of labor disputes around the country. The workers say they need and deserve better wages, management says they cannot afford them.

Regardless of how one talks about the increases, when inflation is factored in, a new clerical worker starting at the University today makes about 5% less than someone taking the identical job in 2003.

These are not highly paid employees; they include some of the lowest paid workers at the University. They really need more money. The average clerical, technical and health care worker makes $34,000 per year. That is the average; starting workers make much less. One striking employee said that even after working at the U of M full-time for 11 years, his family of four qualifies for food stamps.

Ironically, many of these people who work for the University of Minnesota could not afford to send their own children to school there.

The employees point out that the Legislature appropriated funding for 3.25% increases, but the university says that it cannot afford that much for the AFSCME workers. President Robert Bruininks said, "We believe we have a fair offer out there, and we believe we have to run the University in a way that is responsible to all of its employees."

Last year, the university president's salary was $384,000. That is more than the average striking worker makes in a decade.

On top of that, his compensation package included an additional $150,000 that he receives in deferred compensation, for a total of $539,000.

Everybody expects the University President to receive good compensation. But this year, his salary increased by $39 thousand, and his deferred compensation jumped an additional $25 thousand, bringing his total compensation to $598,000. That works out to be a 12% increase this year. Just the increase in his compensation, $64,000, is almost double what the average striking worker makes in a year.

This does not meet Bruininks' own criteria that the University be "responsible to all of its employees." It is easy to see why the AFSCME workers feel they are treated unfairly.

President Bruininks and his administration are paid to make some big financial decisions. It is sad that they appear blind to the impact of their actions on the lives of their own employees.

John Marty is a state senator representing District 54.

Another pair of important state legislators that OurLeader has annoyed by his intransigence are Tom Rukavina
[Chair, Higher Education and Work Force Development Policy] and Mary Muphy [Chair, Education Finance and Economic Division] who have written him a letter about the situation.

Continuing to ignore the problem is not going to lead to a solution. OurLeader needs to get off his horse and start good faith negotiations for the sake of any remaining credibility the University might have in the social justice area. Do we really aim to be one of the "top public research universities in the world [sic]" on the backs of our lowest paid employees?

By the way, I hope OurLeader and Joltin' Joel are enjoying the football season after spending roughly five million dollars to do a coaching swap.

Ciao, Bonzo


momo said...

Mr. Bonzo,
what is your opinion of the most recent missive from Carol Carrier to University employees, of which I am one, in which she claims that on Friday, the University offered the union an increase of 8-9% plus lump sums of cash? I am puzzled as to why the workers would reject this generous offer when they claim that they all they are asking for is a 3.25 % increase? Are they bad at math? or is the administration flat our lying?

Mr. B. said...


This is a very good question and one that I, too, pondered when it popped into my email at about 4:45 this afternoon.

This would be a good thing for the local ink-stained wretches at the Pioneer Planet, the Star Tribune, or even, gasp, the Daily, to figure out.

Suffice it to say that another description of what went on seems to be at variance with Ms. Carrier's assertions.

According to the strikers the U has offered the Teamsters a deal including the disputed step increases and the strikers want the same percentage increase.

The U has a lump sum mentioned in the Carrier email. It would be nice to see what the dollar amount of both packages is. Without knowing this, it is hard to know what to make of the arguments of both sides right now.

If you find out, let me know. If I find out, I will certainly post on it. If someone reading this knows, please comment and let us know.



Mr. B. said...


I've put something up concerning your question in a new post.

It is the best I can do, given the information available to me.