We Bring Augsburg Values to Bargaining

Header: Agusburg Staff. Augsburg Values. Augsburg Contract.

Dear Colleagues,
We had our fourth bargaining session yesterday and learned a lot about how the administration views our union. Frankly, we’re tired of the administration’s us-versus-them mentality. We organized this union to improve Augsburg, to build an Augsburg that fully lives up to its values. Why would Dawn Miller, Katie Bishop, and their well-paid attorney refer to us as “the union’s people” throughout the bargaining session? We are Augsburg’s people. We’re the students’ people. We’re us, we’re Auggies, we’re the union.
Are these really Augsburg values?
Today’s bargaining session continued to demonstrate that the administration isn’t living up to our shared values. How?

  • Administration wants to maintain complete control over staff working conditions. All of their counters (responses) to our proposals are just to maintain the status quo in their favor. Check out what we mean here. We organized to protect ourselves from unilateral decisions that affect us. If we wanted to protect admin’s unchecked power to take away our retirement benefits, reduce our wages, and decide our healthcare without our input, then we would never have formed a union in the first place.
  • Administration refuses to pay the bargaining team. They seem to think an unpaid bargaining team is on a level playing field with themselves, a paid bargaining team. Our colleagues are taking time out of their workdays to work out a fair contract for all of us. It is typical for employers to pay members of the bargaining team. This isn’t an issue for other progressive employers in the Twin Cities, why is it an issue for admin? How they treat the bargaining team reflects how they see the whole staff union.
  • Administration doesn’t give us real proposals. They give us one word answers – “No.” We spent months working on our proposals, surveying the staff, having one on one conversations. They spend a few minutes telling us that almost none of it’s going to happen or giving us weak language that gives us no real agency. It is clear that the administration is not happy with staff unionizing–and they’re not eager to collaborate honestly on any of our proposals. But we’re not asking for wild changes. We’re asking for collaborative improvements and they consistently bring little to nothing to the table.
  • It has been 10 weeks and the administration still will not engage with us on wages and healthcare. We briefly discussed a healthcare selection committee, but we were told the status quo is fine as it is. That contradicts what we found in our survey, where 62% of staff respondents said improving healthcare plans was a high priority. 70% of respondents also said their wage increases have not kept up with the cost of healthcare. We found it offensive to hear that the administration was not interested in contract proposals that would lead to more staff input when it comes to selecting insurance plans.

This treatment of us, the staff union, is not in line with Augsburg values. As we’ve said before, we’re disappointed. This is a collaborative process, but it’s also one required by law. The administration has made it clear that they are only interested in doing the bare minimum to obey federal labor law. Auggies set higher standards for themselves. 
We take notes during each of our bargaining sessions. We invite you to read our notes, and see for yourself the number of ways the administration’s bargaining team tells us that we’re working against the university and not as part of it. 
The status quo or no
We have been negotiating for 10 weeks and now the administration finally responded to some of what was in our initial proposal, although they still explicitly told us they’re avoiding discussing economics. Their response, which you can read in full here, is lackluster at best. What it boils down to is the “status quo” or “no”. They responded to our proposals that sought to improve conditions by either reducing them to the way things are now or just outright rejecting them without explanation. 
Why does that matter if these policies are, as they say, in the employee handbook? Leaving items in the handbook and not embedded in our contract means they can change it at any point in the future, taking away any avenue for us to improve our work environments. 
What can we do?
The very best thing we can all do is continue to show our support for, and pride in, our union. Our collaborative work can absolutely result in positive changes for all of us and Augsburg as a whole. It’s up to us to remind administration that this union is what the staff wanted because this union is how we make a better Augsburg.
Have you signed the petition to Paul Pribbenow yet? It outlines our reasonable asks that have remained true since bargaining began: negotiate quickly, fairly, and help us build a better Augsburg.
Will you turn out to our picnic on Wednesday, May 19th? We’re gathering at noon in Murphy Square Park! We will provide cookies and soft drinks, we will share more updates on bargaining, and get a chance to talk about what the proposals mean for you.