Negotiations 2018

Check here for updates on our current contract negotiations. They will be posted after appearing in the weekly newsletter. Our negotiations team would also like to hear from you, whether it's suggestions, feedback, or inquiries about how you can help.

2018 Negotiatiing Committee

Mary Austin

612.417.8366 (President cell phone)

[email protected]

Bob Francis

612.402.5207  (Vice President Organizer cell phone)

[email protected]

Jody Ebert

 [email protected],  612-625-7871
160 Wilson Lib.
309 19th Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55455

Bill Hill

[email protected]

Maggie Kilgo

[email protected]

November 15 Negotiations Update 

A tentative agreement has been reached with the University. The Negotiations Committee makes no formal recommendation for or against the adoption of this agreement.

A huge thank you to everyone that pitched in during our contract campaign. Your marching, letters, tweets, and other social media campaigns truly made a difference. We wouldn’t have been able to get what we got without you.

November 1 Negotiations Update


Everyone loves an underdog story. The ragtag bunch of misfits that come back at the last minute to win the game, save the youth center, win the race, and beat the giant. It’s told in countless stories from film to religious texts. We take our hero(es) and pit them against villains that are better funded, faster, and stronger, but in the end, after a rousing speech and a training montage, the underdog comes back against incredible odds and wins the day. Our underdogs fight uphill, win the battle, beat the bully, make the world a fair and just place. It’s the American Dream.

It doesn’t always work out that way, though.

Right now, we’re at that pivotal juncture. The University tried to take away your benefits open enrollment last Friday. We told them thanks, but no thanks. We told them that playing games with our benefits was a bridge too far and refused to entertain it. That day ended without any guarantee that we would be able to participate in open enrollment today.

We didn’t flinch.

Then yesterday, out of the blue, the University contacted us with a completed memorandum of understanding guaranteeing our right to participate in open enrollment.

They flinched.

However, I’m no leading man, this isn’t a movie, and that’s not enough. We can’t do this alone. We need your help. We’re in this together and to win this race it’s going to take all of us. Because, the negotiations committee’s only job is to represent the will of the membership. That’s you, that’s me, that’s everyone getting this newsletter. Together we have to tell them that playing with our healthcare is going too far and a half a percent raise isn’t going far enough.

It’s easy. It just takes one short phone call. Call this number, 651-450-4990. Become a member. Renew your membership. With just one call you can tell the University exactly how unfair you think their offer is. Let’s win this thing.

October 29 Negotiations Update

The University of Minnesota is not negotiating in good faith with AFSCME 3937
For those who missed the news on social media Friday, and to add more detail: AFSCME 3937 is being blackmailed by management to drop all of their contract proposals, or none of the members in our technical job classes will be able to participate in open enrollment for their insurance coverage. This weaponization of benefits is unprecedented in the history of organized workers at the University of Minnesota. There have never been any preconditions to health care access. This attack on our livelihoods with inadequate compensation, and the attack on the wellbeing of our families by hindering the access to our healthcare is craven and unconscionable. Whether you are a 3937 member, a member of organized labor at the University, Civil Service, faculty or student, you must make your voice heard!
Other employers in Minnesota have recognized that raises and respect matter. Let's convince the University.

Tweet, email, or call (with your name and where you work) this quote from President Kaler or if you are tweeting, you can paste in the photo below. Additional suggestions for each contact method below.

“The University cannot maintain its reputation if it does not appropriately compensate its employees... increases at the rate of inflation are not adequate.”
-President Kaler, September 10, 2015
Board of Regents work session

October 25 Negotiations Update

Solidarity and Mediation 

For over a week now, one of our members has been wearing the same green AFSCME shirt into the office as a protest against how long negotiations have taken so far. They may or may not be washing it. I haven’t checked. However, you can check out the entire protest on our Facebook page.

This protest, in its absurdity, highlights the ineptitude of how the University of Minnesota is handling our contract negotiation process. By refusing to wear a different shirt, our member is holding up a mirror to the University’s refusal to approach this process in a reasonable manner. By wearing the same shirt day after day our member is making a counterpoint to the University’s inability to negotiate in a timely fashion. 

This protest embodies everything a land grant institution should not be. It symbolizes everything wrong with how the University views and treats its employees. 

However, it does add a level of fun and frivolity that has been sorely missing from this process. With that in mind, as we go in to our first day of mediation, I strongly encourage you to join us in a one day Green Machine protest tomorrow. All you have to do is wear a (clean) green outfit, for one day, and post it to our Facebook event  The more members that post pictures, the more we can show how unacceptable the University’s behavior has been all this time! 

Everyone that posts a photo will be entered into a drawing for a free AFSCME t-shirt!

October 18 Negotiations Update

Board of Regents meeting silent protest follow-up

At 10 AM last Friday, we held a silent protest at the monthly Board of Regents meeting. The meeting was already in session when we gathered in the lobby outside the meeting. Green AFSCME shirts were handed out to those that needed them. As planned, our entrance caused everyone in the room to turn and look at us.

While we filed in and sat down, President Kaler and the Board of Regents watched us the entire time. We picked seats near the front but on the far side of room in order to prolong the moment. That alone seemed to work. President Kaler hardly looked up from his table the entire hour we were there.

However, we kept the protest going by coordinating different members availability. Some couldn’t make it to the action right at 10 AM.Some couldn’t stay the entire time. This worked out perfectly as everyone turned to look at us every time a member left or joined us.

Stay tuned for our next planned action I think it’ll be even more fun. ;)

October 11 Negotiations Update

Board of Regents meeting silent protest

They offered us a half percent raise. We responded with a 3.34% counter offer. They filed for mediation.

So, tomorrow we’re going to hold a silent protest at the Board of Regents meeting. Come on out to McNamara Alumni Center tomorrow, wear green, and show them that:

“The University cannot maintain its reputation if it does not appropriately compensate its employees... increases at the rate of inflation are not adequate.”
-President Kaler, September 10, 2015
Board of Regents work session

See you there!

October 4 Negotiations Update

The University’s long awaited counter-proposal 

Negotiations resumed this week after a two week hiatus that the University requested so they could work on their step grid counter-proposal. Spoiler alert, it was awful. In fact, not only was it insulting, the numbers they gave us don’t even match the numbers they told us. Honestly, the whole thing seems like it was thrown together last minute, on a late Friday afternoon, before leaving early for the weekend. 

We were not impressed. 

To be more specific, they’ve had a decade to work on this. The University agreed in 2008, to adjust the salary rate information in Appendix D, informally known as the step grids. You can find this agreement in the back of every contract negotiated since then. It’s on the very last page. It states that the University agreed to revisit this issue, “at a future date in a more favorable economic climate.” 

Since then, we’ve put forward proposals every round of negotiations to address this, including this one which we gave to them months ago. Our proposal condensed the grids down from nearly 30 steps down to 7 steps. The top step stayed roughly the same but every other step was anchored to it. Then, working backwards down the grid, the rest of the steps were calculated with only 3.5% between them. This was based on the same framework as other recent local AFSCME contracts. 

They’ve had time to work on this. Yet their counter proposal was to remove the bottom two steps of every job class except when there was someone on those steps, which they didn’t even manage to get right according to their own documentation. Leaving aside how inadequate we found that response, we found almost 20 examples according to their own documentation, of places where they don’t have employees on the bottom steps, and they still didn’t remove them. That’s 20 times they couldn’t even be bothered to do what they said they’d do. 

That said, we’re still trying to root out all their mistakes. However, we did respond with a proposal of our own, a 3.34% general wage increase.

In response, they filed for mediation. 

Come find out more next week at our Negotiations Info Sessions! 

September 20 Negotiations Update

A Week Off

A huge thanks to everyone for your interest in on our Green Gauntlet event! This silent protest had been scheduled for today’s negotiations session, but it has now been postponed until further notice, which I’m calling a win.

Essentially, after the event was announced in last week’s newsletter, the University contacted the Negotiations Committee, completely out of the blue, to ask for some time to work on a counter-proposal to our proposal on adjusting the step grids, APPENDIX D, Salary Rate Information. Their suggestion was to skip this week’s meeting so they would have the time to run some numbers past some people and get back to us on our step proposal. They’d already had for several weeks, or a decade, if you count their promise from 2008, to look at this issue. Either way, after some discussion and in the spirit of good faith, the Negotiations Committee agreed to give them the week off to work on their counter-proposal.

To me, that means that with just the hint of a collective action on our part, we got them to move on an issue that they haven’t even wanted to talk about except to say, “the University does not agree.” That said, this is a postponement, not a cancellation. The Negotiations committee will not be placated, and we are very, very interested to see what the University produces with a week off.

Stay tuned! It ain’t over till it’s over!

September 13th Negotiations Update

How long is too long?
Negotiating is supposed to be a back and forth type of affair. One side presents a proposal, the other side considers it, and then makes a counter proposal. Maybe things go back and forth a few more times but that’s the general idea.
That’s not how this negotiations has been going, at least not on the University’s end.
Even though every person, on both sides, has blocked out a full day for negotiations, the University moves to end each day early. Basically,every time we make a proposal the University is not prepared to respond. This has happened no matter what. It doesn’t matter if we’re making a counter proposal on an issue that’s been on the table for weeks or if it’s a brand new topic. The result is the same, the University is unprepared.
This is on top of taking weeks to get back to us on other proposals that they have said they’re researching. I’ve mentioned this before but we’re still waiting on them to get back to us on a counter proposal on parental leave that we had ready on the very first day of negotiations
Why are they taking so long? They certainly should have enough time and staff to consider our positions.. What are they doing with all that time? Are they that disorganized? Do they have specific reason they are dragging their feet? Or is it all of the above?
One of their proposals is to discontinue the entire concept of back pay. How things normally work is that no matter how long negotiations take, we get our regularly scheduled increases  (July and October) back to that date in a lump sum payment, after negotiations are over and the contract is signed. They want to end that practice all together. Meaning, the longer they delay negotiations, the further away we get from our annual pay increase, and the more money they can save by not paying us back pay; effectively taking money out of our pockets.

September 6th Negotiations Update

Yesterday’s contract negotiations meeting was predictably lackluster. At the end of our last meeting, we had presented three more proposals which the University did not respond to until yesterday.

Their response?

“The University does not agree, the University does not agree, the University does not agree.”

This is the same response we’ve received on the majority of our proposals. No back and forth on the language, no counter proposals, no explanations… just ‘the University does not agree.”

We asked to move a Memorandum of Understanding from the back section of the contract into the body of the contract, a housekeeping move essentially, and heard ”the University does not agree.”

We asked to increase the call-in time minimum from 2 hours, to 4 hours, a well understood standard from other local union contracts which we presented to the University, and, ”the University does not agree.”

We asked the University to honor their commitment from a decade ago, in 2008, to adjust the salary rate information in Appendix D, where, on the last page of the contract the University agreed to revisit this issue, “at a future date in a more favorable economic climate.”

Their response?

“The University does not agree.”

In contrast, we have been negotiating in good faith. We have made counter proposals to several of the University's proposals, which they are still working on, even though we had some ready to deliver on the very first day of negotiations. We even made a counter proposal package yesterday.

However, they seem to be stuck on a 1% pay increase even though that is not even close to the average negotiated settlement in Minnesota, they seem to be stuck on getting back to us in a timely manner, and they seem to be stuck on “the University does not agree.”

Honestly, if you don’t agree with that, we want to hear from you. Call us. Come to our organizing meetings, where we’re making plans and where we would love your input. We also want you to talk to your co-workers about it. Maybe they're not reading these updates. Maybe they don’t know what’s happening. Tell someone. Talk to people. Get the word out. It’s more important than you think.

August 30th Negotiations Update

The Emperor has no Clothes 

Going into my first contract negotiation, I thought it would be a pretty simple process. Not easy, mind you, but simple. Basically, each side would have a position, the other side would take an opposite position, and we’d meet in the middle. Or  there would be some trading; one of our points for one of yours, etc... I thought there would be compromise, debate, and negotiation. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

In the book, "Offensive Bargaining: Negotiating Aggressively in Contract Campaigns" by David Rosenfeld, he states that one description of contract bargaining is, “After parties have sufficiently prepared, they must engage in face-to-face discussion to identify the issues, present demands and positions, give facts and supporting data and attempt to arrive at mutual solutions... ...Each party is not only dependent on the other for a fair settlement, but also for the information about a possible agreement. A lasting agreement can only be accomplished through accommodations.” (p. 20) A basic assumption of the above description is that the employer and the union both, under the duty to bargain, do so in good faith. Refusing to engage in this process, or simply going through the motions while trying to avoid a contract, is called surface bargaining, and it’s against the law. (p. 11)

However, the bar is set quite high in proving the employer is not bargaining in good faith and is, in fact surface bargaining, or breaking the law. Most all positions or proposals, no matter how regressive, offensive, or personally frustrating do not rise to the level of being illegal. Only specific actions count, and even then they can be up to strict interpretation and may not stick. (p. 12) Some examples, among others, are a failure to make counter proposals, failure to reach agreement on even minor issues, failure to meet regularly, and using a bargaining without sufficient authority to reach an agreement.(p. 11)
Now, for those of you playing along at home, you may recall from my past negotiations updates, that I haven’t reported on many specifics, nothing about the contents of our proposals or the University’s proposals, no counter proposals, only the one agreement on deleting a single line of text, which was irrelevant anyway. This hasn’t been because our negotiations team hasn’t been working on securing a contract. It’s been because we’ve received no counter proposals other than, “the University does not agree.” It’s because the University has failed to even engage with proposals that have no monetary cost, nor ones that change existing practice, and only serve to clarify the current intent of the contract. It’s because, the University has failed to allow members of our negotiations team to attend our negotiations meetings. It’s because  when we directly asked the University’s lead negotiator if they had the authority to make certain decisions they said they would have to check on that and get back to us. 

It’s because, if that list isn’t surface bargaining, we can sure see it from here. 

August 23rd Negotiations Update 
Originally, this article was going to be pretty bland. We expected to deliver some more proposals to the University and hear some more negative responses to our previous proposals. Not what we wanted to hear, but what it’s we expected.
However, instead of all of that, we ended up delivering a grievance to the University’s negotiations team.
Here’s what happened.
A couple of days ago, one of our negotiating team was told, by their supervisor, that they could not attend yesterday’s negotiation meeting. They were told this despite having given the required notice, in more than the required timeframe, for a required meeting, as stipulated in our contract and in state law.
So, instead of the original agenda, we opened yesterday’s negotiations session by presenting our grievance and asking for our team member be allowed to attend that day’s session. After almost two hours of waiting for the University’s response, and with our missing team member in attendance on their lunch break, we were told that they would not be allowed to stay for the remainder of the meeting.
After some back and forth, the University’s position did not change. At that point, our team member returned to their office, and we stated that we would caucus until after our team member’s shift ended, at which point, we would resume our joint session. This was unacceptable to the University's negotiations team as one of their members would not be available at that time.
In the end, the University’s negotiations team walked away from the negotiations table and we remained behind for several hours to debrief and maintain our availability, even after we saw the University’s team leave the building.
This outcome is completely unacceptable to our elected leadership and elected negotiations committee. If the University can deny union leave to any and all of our negotiations committee members, to attend a legitimate meeting and after all the contractual and legal notices have been met, how are we supposed to reach an agreement if we can’t even be there?
Our next meeting is scheduled for August, 28th, 10 AM, at WBOB 140. And, while all of us may not be there, we hope to see you there.  

August 16 update from Bob Francis, VP of Organizing

For the past several months, the Negotiations Committee has been working hard to meet with our members, gather your ideas, research them, and to repackage them into proposals. On July 26th we met with the University for the first time and presented the majority of those proposals and the University presented several proposals to us. At that point, we did not meet for several weeks so that each side could review the other’s proposals.

This past Monday, August 13th, we reconvened for an all-day negotiations session. During this session both sides mostly asked clarifying questions on each other’s proposals. Though, we did present several more proposals to the University.

To be more specific, the University so far stated that they “do not agree” with any of our proposals, except for removing one line of text. They have also proposed a 1% pay increase for the next year with no guarantee of any pay increase for any following years. This is truly a pathetic offer as it won’t even cover the increased cost of parking on campus for the next year. Not to mention the following years.

We meet again next Wednesday 8/22 at Wilson Library. So, between now and then, email us or call us. Let us know any thoughts, questions, or concerns you might have! We want to hear from you.