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August 27, 1969 - Image 58

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The Michigan Daily, 1969-08-27

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Page Four

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

Wednesday, August 27, 1969

Page Four THE MICHIGAN DAILY Wednesday, August 27, 1969

THREE UNIONS RECOGNIZED
'U'and labor: The bumpy road to stability

By RON LANDSMAN
Managing Editor
After two years of negotia-
tions, strikes and strike threats.
legal controversies and general
confusion, the University has
finally arrived at a relatively
stable relationships with labor
with the establishment of three
unions and their recognition by
the administration.
The contracts with three dif-
ferent unions, negotiated, sign-
ed and approved between De-
cember, 1967 and November,
1968, were the result of negotia-
tions, litigation conflicts and an
eight-day strike that finally set-
tIed the issue in the fall of 1967.
But it still took another full
year before all of the Univer-
sity's 3,000 non-academic, non-
clerical employes w e r e repre-
sented by unions.
The turning point in the pro-
cess was the eight-day strike in
September 1967. The skilled
tradesmen employed by the
plant department struck early
on the morning of September 6,
surprising most of the Univer-
sity community, although t h e

administration had known of
the brewing difficulties at least
a week in advance-
The strike included illegal
picketing of almost all of the
University's construction going
on at the time, some $75 million
worth. Picketing of third parties

means lax while this was going Some other sharp differences re-
on, but the unions beat them to mained unresolved, but the Uni-
the punch. An attempt to win versity had met a key demand.
an injunction to halt the picket - interim recognition of the em-
ing was delayed for almost te. ployes' right to collective bar-
days- as Washtenaw County gaining.
Building Trades Council attor- Despite the apparent solidar -
ney Donald Prebenda, who serv- ity of the unions, this was tar

The issues of the strike were far from simple. While the unions
aid employes sought the right to bargain witi the University under
Public Act 379, the Public Employes Relation Act, the University ar-
gued that it could not act because there were conflicting union claims
which only the State Labor Mediation Board could settle.

.who cannot effect the labor dis-
pute itself, such as the contract-
ors who were responsible for the
construction, is barred by the
National Labor Relations Act.
The picketing was effective,
however, as workers refused to
cross picket lines thrown up by
their fellow skilled tradesmen.
It took a few men to shut down
a site employing hundreds.
The contractors were by no

Strilkers picket for 'collectire bIargilit-ing rig Is
in Septemiber 1 967 Wallout

ed as counsel for the employes
here, u s e d a variety of legal
ploys and delaying tactics to
stall any decision by Washtenaw
County Circuit Judge William
Agar. That ten days made the
difference. While the plant de-
partment slowed operations and
other services such as food and
janitorial work, the Students for
a Democratic Society chapter
here worked at drumming up
student support for the workers.
Although SDS was never ter-
rible successful - many stu-
dents were angered at having
food to the dorms limited, and
numerous students took the
place of striking workers in the
cafeterias - they did recruit
enough strength to force t h e
University into a very tense con-
frontation.
As the strike wore on into its
eighth day, students joined
workers on the picket lines and
added a touch of militancy that
had been missing up to then.
Following some near-violent
clashes at the Food Service
Bldg. and elsewhere, the Uni-
versity finally relented a n d
agreed to some basic demands
of the strikers, although neither
side in fact moved v e r y far.

WECM

from the case. Five unions vied
at various times for representa-
tion, including Local 1583 of the
American Federation of State,
County and Municipal Employ-
es (AFSCME), the International
Union of Operating Engineers,
the building trades council, and
the Building Services Employes
International Union tBSEIU).
The Teamsters dropped out of
the competition about a year
earlier.
The skilled tradesmen and
the engineers both sought to u"-
ganize and represent only their
own special trades, comprisig
only some 250 of all the employ-
es here. The BSEIU sought to
represent the much larger group
of janitorial and food service
workers at the dormitories, the
Law Club and elsewhere on
campus. T h e AFSCME, which
eventually would be the biggest
winner, sought to represent ev-
eryone.
While the skilled tradesmen
were striking and the BSEIU of-
ficially joined the strike, t h e
AFSCME local stayed in the
background, playing both ends
against the middle, looking to
gain the most ground for the
least effort.
The local refused to officially
go on strike itself, although it
urged i t s members to respect
the strike. At the same time, the
international representative on
campus, Jerry Kendziorski, tried
to maneuver his union into the
position of representing all the
striking workers, but the Uni-
versity rebuffed him.
Nonetheless, AFSCME kept its
hands clean legally while pick-
ing up m u c h support among
workers during and after the
strike.
The issues of the strike were
far from simple. While the un-
ions and employes sought the
right to bargain with the Uni-
versity under Public Act 379, the
Public Employes Relations Act,
the University argued t h a t it
couldn't act because there were
conflicting union claims which
only the State Labor Mediation
Board could settle.

The administration also claim-
ed that the University was 'not
bound by PA 379 - which com-
pels state institutions to bargain
collectively-because of the Re-
gents' constitutionally guaran-
teed autonomy, and w e n t to
court for a decision. The Uni-
versity lost in circuit court and
the case is now pending on ap-
peals.
The unions wanted the Re-
gents to drop the PA 379 suit in
circuit court, or at least start
bargaining with the unions, un-
til a decision was made. They
believed that once the Univer-
sity recognized a union, the le-
gal fateof the PA 379 would be-
come irrelevant.
It is a little unclear now ex-
actly where the mediation board
fit in. They had worked with the
case for over a year and still
had not acted, The unions said
it was due to University stalling.
The University said it was just
going through the correct pro-
cess.
Statements made by media-
tion board members conflicted,
While one said the case was pro-
gressing normally, another later
indicated that it was in abey-
ance pending the outcome of the
PA 379 suit.
The strike was ended in Sep-
tember on the agreement that
the mediation board decision
would be followed pending the
outcome of the suit, a n d the
board promised to act quickly.
A decision, establishing three
bargaining units, followed In the
next few months.
The two skilled trades units
were recognized, assuring t h e
victories of the skilled trades-
men and the engineers in their
units, and the rest of the Uni-
versity was made one bargain-
ing unit, forcing out the small-
er BSEIU in favor of the
AFSCME,
The AFSCME - the last un-
ion to win recognition - andI
the University finally began
contract negotiations in late Ap-
ril 1968, negotiations that drag-
ged on until November when a
contract was signed and rati-
fied. The union made noises like
It was g o i n g to strike for a
while in September, but never
went through with it, and the
negotiations returned to the
humdrum until the agreement
emerged.
Meanwhile. h e University
continues to seek a ruling on PA
379, b u t administrators insist
that they are only seeking es-
tablishment of the principle of
University autonomy and that
they have once and forever ac-
cepted the principle of collec-
tive bargaining with non-aca-
demic, non-clerical University
employes.

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