Staff Union Wins Spot on COVID-19 Task Force
Olivia Allery, news editor
The Augsburg Staff Union has officially secured their place on the COVID-19 Task Force. The Augsburg Staff Union has been officially unionized since January of 2021 after a months-long campaign that mobilized staff, students, and faculty alike, works to advocate for both the rights of Augsburg staff and the campus community as a whole.
“This is our very first contract as a Staff Union, according to Minnesota State law, any employer with 25 or more employees has to have a health and safety committee for their workplace and we wanted everyone in the Union to have a say in their own health and well-being while working at Augsburg,” explained Maren Stoddard Mack, Manager of Faculty-led Programs and Student Outreach at the Center for Global Education and Experience (CGEE), and staff union organizer. “From there we asked the college, ’What is the health and safety committee here?’ That was the COVID-19 Task Force.”
This spot on the task force will allow the Staff Union to have more collaboration with other administrators to work to make a safer campus for not only the Union but everyone. This transparency and openness has not always been something that has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 Task Force.
“Having a seat on the COVID Task Force means that our members are less likely to be surprised,” said Uriah Ward, Financial Aid Counselor and staff union organizer. “Throughout the pandemic, we’ve heard from staff that they didn’t understand why decisions were being made the way they were. We weren’t given notice of anything ahead of time. We have a chance to ask hard questions and get clarification from the administration. It was clear that staff believed that they didn’t have a seat at the table when decisions were being made about them. We set out to change that and we’ve managed to win a place at some important tables!”
The Staff Union does not necessarily have any big plans initially for the COVID-19 Task Force, as it is not a committee where final decisions are made but more of a place where people can address concerns they may have regarding health and safety on Augsburg’s campus. The Union also is still deciding on who will serve on the Task Force long term. “We have someone sitting on the Task Force on an interim basis but we’re going to hold an election so our members can decide collectively who should serve on the Task Force long-term,” said Ward.
For the staff union, even just having an interim member on the committee is important and informative. “We get to see how the meetings are structured, what’s being discussed, and get to address our concerns which has really increased transparency and collaboration so much already just from having a place in the discussions.” said Stoddard Mack.
Ward continues this point by saying, “We’ve already learned more about the university’s plans for the mask mandate and learned about the expansion of eating spaces before it was announced publicly.”
Community members who wish to stay up to date on the activities and negotiations happening around the staff union can do so on Instagram @augsburgstaffunion, on Twitter @AugsburgStaff, or on their website, augsburgstaffunion.org.