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Picket Lines Up – Classes Continue – At University of Minnesota

September 7, 2007

St. Paul, MN – Picket lines are up this morning outside five University of Minnesota campuses after clerical, technical, and health workers went on strike Wednesday morning over a wage dispute. Eliot Seide with AFSCME Council 5, the union that represents the workers, says it's about keeping up with the cost of living.

"Our typical member earns less than $34,000 a year. That worker would qualify for food stamps to support a family of four. When workers don't have money for basic necessities their whole families and communities suffer."

He says the University's wage offer is under the rate of inflation, while administrative salaries have increased over 25 percent in the past five years. University officials say, based on state funding, its proposal of pay raises of up to 2.5 percent is reasonable.

Seide says the strike isn't intended to shut down school, and he's glad that it's business as usual in the classroom. However, the goal is to make sure those who help keep schools running are treated fairly.

"These are the people who help your student, your child, when they go in for admissions, to get them ready to go to school. These are the folks who work in the libraries, who help serve you and get your books and your research together. They're in the healthcare center. These are the folks who, every day, help you get through the University, in order to be a successful student."

The campuses affected by the strike are in Duluth, Rochester, Crookston, Morris, and the Twin Cities. Seide says no new negotiations have been scheduled. It's only the second such strike in more than 60 years. Fall semester classes began on Tuesday.

Jim Wishner/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - MN