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MnSCU Workers to Trustees: Stop Paying the Bosses Bonuses

July 20, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS - As the Board of Trustees for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) gathers to meet this week, they will be greeted by union protesters. AFSCME Council 5, the state's largest public employees' union, is calling on trustees to stop handing out bonuses to the system's bosses, after MnSCU trustees awarded a $40,000 bonus to Chancellor James McCormick in June, despite the system's budget crunch. The trustees say that the bonuses were earned and are contractual.

Karen Foreman is a Mankato State University employee who serves on AFSCME's policy committee.

"They are passing out bonuses with one hand, and tuition increases and pink slips with the other hand."

AFSCME, and MnSCU's other public employee unions accepted wage freezes in exchange for fewer layoffs. But MnSCU is potentially eliminating another 500 positions this fall, and students will see an average tuition increase of two to three hundred dollars.

Foreman says the call by Governor Tim Pawlenty for shared sacrifice among state employees should not exempt administrator bonuses.

"I just don't understand how the Board of Trustees could believe that the public will accept bonuses to high-level public employees, given the extraordinary times we are experiencing as a state."

She says additional bonuses are now expected for dozens of other top administrators.

Cathy Rajtar is an MnSCU employee who says she was lucky to get a new job there after her old one was eliminated last fall, and she's still worried about her job security. She says she's not sure how more potential cuts are going to be made this time around.

"Right now, a lot of departments have one or two people that are assigned to them. And if you cut those two people in this next round, you're going to be cutting programs. And those are programs that are supporting students and campuses."

David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, is also the out-going chair of MnSCU's Board of Trustees. He says the Chancellor and other administrators have also experienced salary and benefit freezes, and that the bonuses are earned based on performance.

"I think a lot of people assume a bonus is something you get every year. This truly is performance pay. There were five specific measures that the Chancellor had to meet. He met or exceeded four of them, so he received four-fifths of his potential performance pay."

Olson says that administrative bonuses are contractual, and it is the obligation of the trustees to honor those contracts, just as they honor the union contracts.

Sharon Rolenc, Public News Service - MN