Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"Don't squander good will," lawmakers tell BigU

MINNEAPOLIS - The University of Minnesota is jeopardizing its support in the Minnesota Legislature by not reaching a fair settlement with striking workers, lawmakers said Tuesday.

At a news conference held at AFSCME strike headquarters in Dinkytown, three state legislators urged a quick end to the strike by clerical, health care and technical workers that began Sept. 5. They are the second group of lawmakers in as many weeks to speak out about the dispute.

"I am incredibly disappointed with the administration's actions," said state Senator Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-62, adding that having a "world class university" means the administration needs to "treat our workers as world class workers."

State Rep. Frank Hornstein, DFL-60B, was equally direct.

"We don't want the leadership of this institution to squander the goodwill they now have . . . . We don't want the strike to last a day longer," he said. "I speak for many of my colleagues in demanding that the collective bargaining process resume and the university come back to the table."

The 2007 Legislature boosted the university's appropriation in part to fund increases in compensation, said state Senator John Marty, DFL-54. "We didn't expect the pay raise would be dished out so that the people at the bottom of the pay scale get the least. But that's what's happening here.

"President Bruininks, I appeal to you and the Board of Regents. I think it's time to get back to the bargaining table."

Currently, no talks are scheduled.

The legislators said they are concerned the growing gap in compensation between frontline workers and top university administrators is mirroring practices in the corporate world, where CEOs earn hundreds of times the pay of the average employee.

"We cannot have that in a learning institution, in an academic institution," said Torres Ray.

The horse, Bob, time to get down. The longer you stay up there, the worse you are making things. I don't think you are going to be able to go over to St. Paul and ask for a whole lot of goodies after this.

If you can't even pay your lowest paid workers a decent wage, what makes you think the legislature will bankroll your ten year march to become "one of the top three public research universities in the world [sic]?" For the sake of the workers, the students, the faculty and staff, for you own credibility, please think about this.

An alumnus and faculty member - Mr. Bonzo

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