Members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees AFSCME locals and the Teamsters 320 Union will rallied yesterday at the University of Minnesota campus to demand pay raises from University administration. Clerical workers returned to the bargaining table on Tuesday where they are negotiating a new 2-year contract on salaries and benefits. The unions at the “Raises and Respect” rally represented about one-fifth of the 19,000 employees at the U. The University is the state’s 6th largest employer. Workday Minnesota reports that “students, faculty, parents, and other supporters” joined the rally.
Per Workday Minnesota, the unions want “pay raises of 5 percent each year, a minimum campus wage of $15 an hour, increases at the top of the pay scale for long-time workers, and full restoration of the Regents Scholarship for campus workers.” The scholarship program provides free tuition for eligible employees working toward a degree and 75% of tuition for enrolling in specific courses covered by the scholarship.
The hourly employees want pay raises despite a $3.7 billion University budget– approved in June– that provides a 2% increase for all employees. Alpha News reported on the general wage increases for state employees this summer. The union workers have been offered a .25% per per year raise on top of that, for a total two year pay raise of 4.5%, but AFSCME claims that higher pension contributions negate these increases and are demanding the 5% annual increases. If they win, their total wage increase would be 14% over 2-years.
Per Workday Minnesota, administrative staff has seen a 6% increase in pay since 2012 while AFSCME clerical workers have received a 4.73% increase during the same time period. In addition the union workers want more paid time off, demanding six weeks of paid paternity leave, (regardless of gender.) Administration and faculty already have six weeks paid paternity leave. 473 workers at the University make less than $15 an hour or $31,200 per year according to the unions. They point out that 648 employees in the U’s academic administration make over $100,000 per year, with 223 earning $150,000 or more.
Another issue relating to the current negotiation are pension benefits, which are defined-benefit plans for union members at the University under the Minnesota State Retirement System. Social Security is an example of a defined-benefit plan and only 18% of American workers in the private sector have this type of pension per the Economic Policy Institute and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Union workers who were represented at yesterday’s rally receive a 5.5% of salary contribution match from the University and their plans promise to pay out a lump sum plus interest based on a predetermined formula. From Workday Minnesota, “the average public employee pension for Minnesota state employees is a modest $14,000 per year.” In contrast, University administration have defined-contribution plans more like the private sector and receive an employer-paid biweekly contribution of 10-13% of their salaries which go into their 401K retirement investment accounts.
In other union news at the University, the Minnesota Daily reports that nearly 500 faculty, students, and alumni attended a “University of Minnesota Academics United” rally at Northrop Auditorium last week. The group seeks to bring faculty members together into one labor union which would organize under Service Employees International Union (SEIU).