Staff Union Pickets as Board of Regents Passes by
Olivia Allery, news editor
Augsburg’s Staff Union took to the sidewalks the morning of Oct. 7, picketing and protesting for the university’s leadership to take action on the Staff Union contract. The picket was regarding the university’s overwhelmingly high costs of healthcare for staff. Placed outside of Foss, they were hoping to get the attention of Augsburg’s Board of Regents as they were just concluding their board meeting and walking to morning chapel.
“I am happy to stand in solidarity with my colleagues just seeing all of the coworkers and other supporters that showed up, you know students, faculty, just seeing so many people show up brings me so much joy,” said Staff Union member and Assistant Director of Admissions Katie Asfeld.
The group, composed of Staff Union members, faculty and student advocates, stood in solidarity outside of Foss center. They chanted, “Ain’t no power like the power of the people, cuz the power of the people don’t stop” and “When staff and student needs aren’t met you lose us both by 30%” as people headed in for chapel, and they handed out flyers with information and testimonies regarding Augsburg’s high cost of health insurance.
When the Board of Regents ended their meeting, it seemed as though many board members purposely had walked around the main entrance and either entered from the skyway or others walked around to the farthest entrance of Anderson Music Hall, near S 7 ½ Street. Mike Fetting, Staff Union member and minute keeper for the Board of Regents meeting, explained that the board was specifically told to not engage with the picketers at all or discuss any aspects of the contract outside of negotiation sessions. Fetting recalled this statement being made: “Just so you all are aware there is a group of picketers outside the doors to the chapel. If they ask you any questions just say the President and administration has your full support. If you would like to use a different entrance to the building you can follow an Augsburg staff member to an alternate entrance.”
After chapel had started, the picket slowly started to disperse and a few Staff Union members — Katie Lane, Lily Weaver, Katie Asfeld and Alethea Tusher — made their way into the chapel lobby, hoping to try and grab the attention of board members after the service was over.
After chapel concluded, these Staff Union members continued trying to engage and talk to the Board of Regents members but still were unable. Once it was clear that all the board members had left the service, the remaining Staff Union members decided to head out as well.
While some Staff Union members returned back to their offices, others on the bargaining team headed to a negotiation session with Augsburg’s administration. Both the Staff Union’s and Augsburg’s administrative bargaining teams met Friday, Oct 7. from 12-2 p.m. to discuss the Staff Union’s proposed contract. During this meeting, both teams were able to reach a tentative agreement on the entire contract. “We have been in negotiations with administration for the past 19 months and we can now move forward with presenting our contract to our members and having a ratification vote in the near future, ideally within the next two weeks,” said Asfled.
“We all feel confident that our picket and the stories we shared about staff experiences with our health insurance is how we were able to get some movement at the bargaining table.”
With the voting taking place this week, the Augsburg Staff Union will potentially have their first official contract with Augsburg University. As the first private college staff union in the state of Minnesota, it would be a huge milestone and inspiration for unions everywhere.