Augsburg Staff Union Ratifies Their First Contract

Olivia Allery, news editor 

Photo of Staff Union members and supporters picketing on sidewalk, taken on Oct . 7 by Olivia Allery

Olivia Allery, news editor 

Correction: The Health Benefits Advisory committee is made up of Staff Union members and managing representatives, as well as other Augsburg employees covered by the benefits plan. This committee will be advising Augsburg leadership on the cost-effectiveness, choice and design of the benefits plan.

After being in negotiations for 19 months, the Augsburg Staff Union has made history again this past week and collectively voted to ratify their first contract with Augsburg University, making the Augsburg Staff Union the first private collegiate staff union in the state of Minnesota to ratify a contract.

“It means a lot of things,” answered Faculty-Led Programs and Student Outreach Manager Maren Stoddard-Mack when asked what the contract means for the union. “One thing that’s very exciting was the strong desire to work together, and I think this contract is not only a symbol of that but it also provides structure to be collaborative moving forward.”

“The fact that contract negotiations went on for 19 months, we had talked about forming a union back in 2018, and now we’re at a good starting point for the rest of the union,” says Assistant Director of the CLASS office Katie Lane when describing how she feels about the contract being ratified. “One of the goals was to hear all folks,” Lane continued, “I feel like we have put pressure not only on the university but on the staff union as well, to really listen to what the staff and students want to see change.” 

The contract introduces some major improvements to hourly and salary wages for members of the Staff Union, including hourly base pay at $20.75/hour and salary based at $44,000 along with an annual 2% increase to contract members. The contract also features longevity pay increases at the third, sixth and ninth year at Augsburg and a mandatory six week paid new parent leave for parents of a newborn, newly adopted or newly fostered child, all of which will hopefully help in reducing the percentage of staff turnover and maintain stability throughout the campus departments. 

“This contract is a monumental step toward greater equity for some of the lowest paid staff at Augsburg, as well as a huge step toward our goal of reducing staff burnout and turnover,” says Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions Katie Asfeld.

To address the concern of high healthcare costs, the contract also sets up the Health Benefits Advisory committee. This committee will be implemented within 60 days of the contract ratification and will be made up of both Staff Union and non-Staff Union members of Augsburg’s faculty. The board is to advise the Board of Regents on the cost effectiveness, choice and design of the benefits plans.

The contract will be up for renewal in 2 years and the Staff Union will be able to review and reevaluate the contract as a whole and/or as sections. While the union is taking time to rejoice their first ratification win, they still are focused on what comes next. “Next step is just implementing our contract to our daily lives,” says Stoddard-Mack, “We are working on a committee that will have a 30-min orientation for new employees who want to join the staff union and working through who wants to be in the welcoming committee, as well as finding people for the union stewards position and just having the contract be part of the workplace now is what I’m really excited to see.”

“I feel incredibly proud of the work that we have done together to get to this point,” says Asfeld.  “It feels amazing to have our very first ratified staff union contract in place — it’s something that will benefit staff, and the entire Augsburg community for years to come.”