U of M relents in contract talks as workers stick together for raises and respect

Teamsters and AFSCME members rallied on the Twin Cities campus earlier this year as part of their joint campaign for fair contracts.

Teamsters and AFSCME members rallied on the Twin Cities campus earlier this year as part of their joint campaign for fair contracts.

Frontline workers at the University of Minnesota stood together for nearly six months, waging a contract campaign for raises and respect.

Now that strategy is paying off, as three bargaining units – Teamsters Local 320 and AFSCME Locals 3800 and 3801 – have announced tentative agreements with the U that include 2 percent wage increases, equitable family leave policies and other union demands.

Bargaining teams for all three local unions are recommending members vote to ratify the two-year contracts in the coming weeks.

By sticking together and staging several public events, workers were able to move the U’s negotiators, who for months held firm that they had no interest in discussing expanded family leave and could do no better than annual raises of less than 1 percent.

“We arrived today in bargaining on Dec. 10 and found that the university was finally willing to negotiate over our core issues,” Local 3800 President Cherrene Horazuk said in a video announcing the union’s tentative agreement, posted online.

“It is because (of) the efforts of all of us collectively that we were able to get the best contract that we have achieved in years,” she added.

Local 3800 and 3801, which represent clerical workers at the U, won tentative agreements that include a $15 minimum wage, annual wage and step increases amounting to about 2 percent and no increases in workers’ health insurance premiums.

Clerical workers also won six weeks of paid parental leave for birth mothers – a four-week increase that achieves equity with faculty and administrators – and a memorandum of understanding with the university regarding bullying in the workplace.

“This is a contract that, we believe, begins to address the disparities between employee groups at the university,” Horazuk said.

Local 320, which represents custodial, food service, animal and land-care workers at campuses across the state, reached an agreement with similar wage increases and benefit terms earlier this month.

“By standing with AFSCME, we showed the university that it’s no longer business as usual,” Local 320 said in a statement. “We showed the university that frontline workers at the university are ready to fight for a fair contract.”

AFSCME Local 3937, which represents technical workers at the university, resumes bargaining Monday. AFSCME Local 3260, which represents non-professional health care workers at the U of M, is also in negotiations.

All told, the contract negotiations affect about 4,000 workers at the U.

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