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AFSCME The Latest Union To Protest WMU Wage Offer

Demonstrators with signs line a sidewalk, in front of a grassy slope
Sehvilla Mann

A union representing landscapers, cooks, carpenters and other workers at Western Michigan University says its contract negotiations have stalled. Like faculty and part-time instructors earlier this summer, members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees say they’ll rally in protest tomorrow on campus.

The picket will take place on Michigan Avenue near the Bernhard Center, AFSCME local 1668 president Bryan Sutton said.

Sutton said Western’s wage proposal for the next contract was unacceptably low, particularly after members kept the lights on during the pandemic shutdown.

“By the nature of our job we can’t work from home like so many other people could. So we had to have people cutting grass and serving meals and cleaning and sanitizing classrooms and doing maintenance work and all the things that we do,” he said.

“With everything that we did to get the university in a position to be able to open back up, once they were allowed to have students back on campus,” he added, “we’re very, very surprised and disappointed that they’re taking the stances they are with us.”

Sutton wouldn’t specify how much AFSCME is asking for or what Western has offered, citing ongoing negotiations. He said the union and the university have agreed on other parts of the contract, such as its health care plan.

A university spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Sehvilla Mann joined WMUK’s news team in January 2014 as a reporter on the local government and education beats. Before that she covered a variety of topics, including environmental issues, for Bloomington, Indiana NPR and PBS affiliates WFIU and WTIU. She’s also written and produced stories for the Pacifica Network and WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Sehvilla holds a B.A. in French from Earlham College and an M.A. in journalism from Indiana University.
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