Augsburg Staff Union Bargain for Their First Contract
Danny Reinan, news editor
The members of the Augsburg Staff took a monumental step forward for worker’s rights in higher education when they officially unionized this winter, establishing them as the first non-managerial private university staff in Minnesota to unionize. Now that their union has been officially recognized, they’re maintaining their momentum by bargaining for their very first union contract, aiming to attain higher wages and improved healthcare benefits for all staff.
This year’s initial campaign to secure the staff union was a collaborative process, bringing together staff from across many programs on campus, and the bargaining process carries on with this key facet of the process. Eight Augsburg staff members, each from different departments, form the bargaining team, synthesizing the feedback from the other members of the union as they negotiate with the administration. All the while, they are continuing to keep those very same union members updated on the process through town halls led by the Contract Action Team (CAT), which all the bargaining team members serve on.
So far, the bargaining team has had one session with administration, with two more planned, aiming for their contract to be implemented in the summer. Wages and healthcare are at the very top of their priority list. The bargaining team is campaigning for either a base salary increase or a percentage increase in wages for all staff, and has also laid out a healthcare plan which includes covered healthcare premiums, paid family care leave, and a “sick leave pool” where staff members who have leftover paid sick leave days can contribute theirs to staff members who have exhausted theirs.
Despite their thoroughness, the bargaining team has encountered some challenges in negotiating with administration early in the process. “As of right now, the administration’s bargaining team is declining to negotiate economic issues with us (ones that may cost the university money) saying that they would like to focus on other issues first,” said Annie Chen, Program Assistant and Tutor Coordinator for TRIO Student Support Services and member of the Augsburg staff union bargaining team. “Economic issues (namely wages and healthcare) are some of the main areas of concern that our staff union would like to see improved. [We] believe that these are a priority and should not be left until some later unnamed date.”
“Economic issues (namely wages and healthcare) are some of the main areas of concern that our staff union would like to see improved. [We] believe that these are a priority and should not be left until some later unnamed date.”Annie Chen
The importance of wages and healthcare for the union is even more evident in the face of a bargaining survey sent out to staff union members this winter, which received 113 responses out of 132 respondents, and indicated that 71% do not feel they are properly paid for the work they contribute.
“Having a robust contract with improvements to wage and healthcare would help with staff retention and work to create the inclusive environment that Augsburg has said they are committed to,” said Chen.
Despite these challenges, the union members continue to show up in the community to further their cause, most recently displaying their union Zoom backgrounds and profile photos proudly at Augsburg’s University Focused Conversation about sustainability, sharing their ideas for growing sustainably as a campus and spreading the word about worker’s rights.
“Augsburg Staff Union members continue to show our strength and remain engaged by sharing our concerns and our commitment to a better Augsburg for all,” said Chen.
Community members who wish to stay up to date on the bargaining efforts can do so on Instagram @augsburgstaffunion, on Twitter @AugsburgStaff, or on their website, augsburgstaffunion.org.