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On the picket line

September 28, 2007 | Page 14

University of Minnesota
By Alan Maass

MINNEAPOLIS--A two-week strike of clerical, health care and technical workers at the University of Minnesota was called off September 21 in advance of a vote on a contract offer that union leaders called "inadequate," but expected to pass.

The strike of about 1,000 workers won wide support in the university community, including from students and faculty members. But two weeks without a paycheck and the threatened loss of health insurance took a toll on workers.

Striker Emily Kreitzer told a reporter that she would vote against the new agreement, but "we really feel like we all need to get back to work. We don't make enough money to save up for a strike like this."

Officials from the three different AFSCME locals representing the striking workers announced that members would return to work in advance of an early October vote on a contract offer that is the same as one they rejected a week earlier.

Under the offer, workers will get a 4.5 to 5 percent raise over two years--the union had demanded a 6.5 to 7 percent hike over two years. Almost all workers will also continue to receive a 2 percent "step" raise on the anniversary of their hiring.

According to Phyllis Walker, president of the local that represents clerical workers, the union was stronger for having walked out. "The things that you can't measure are the things that really, really matter in the long run," Walker said. "The strength that builds in the union from doing that, the way people feel for themselves because they stood up and fought."

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