The Michigan Daily - Thursday, March 10, 2005 - 7A
Continued from page 1A
Organizer and Michigan Federation of
Teachers & School Related Personnel mem-
ber Jon Curtiss said an overarching goal of U-
POWER is to give office workers on campus
"With this voice, they can decide for them-
selves what issues are important and negotiate
those with the University," Curtiss said. "They
will have more of a say in the decisions that
affect their lives."
U-POWER needs to meet a 30-percent thresh-
old of support among the clerical staff in order
to file for election with the Michigan Employee
Relations Committee, which will certify U-
POWER's attempt to form a union and produce
ballots to officially vote on it. The vote for union
establishment will then go to all office and cleri-
cal workers at the University, and a union will be
created if a simple majority is reached.
Curtiss added that although only 30 percent
of University office and clerical workers are
needed to pledge support, U-POWER will file
to vote on unionizing only when a majority of
workers have signed membership cards.
University spokeswoman Julie Peterson
said she was not aware of any evidence that
office staff at the University have experi-
enced a disproportionate negative impact, in
comparison with other employment groups,
as result of the budget cuts. She said that the
loss of jobs that has occurred was greatly
due to attrition - workers willfully leav-
ing and the University not replacing them
- and not to layoffs.
"The reality is that the budget climate is tight
and I understand why they might be worried,"
Peterson said. "I think that our staff has been
through two very difficult budget years and
we have only had a small number of layoffs.
Given that, I don't believe office and clerical
staff should be worried that there will be mas-
sive layoffs in the future."
Peterson said the University believes that
employees have the right to decide whether
they want to be represented by a union and at
this point in the development of U-POWER,
the University's role is to ensure that staff
members are fully informed about the process
of unionization and to encourage participation
in the voting process.
"There are some that feel strongly and some
the michigan dal
that don't participate. We think everyone
should get involved and make their wishes
known by voting."
But some University employees, like
research secretary Arlene Schneider, are not
yet fully informed of or sold on the idea of
forming a union.
"I've been here a long time, and it seems
the other times (the idea) was brought up it
didn't make much of an impact," Schneider
said. "Maybe now is the time - i'm just
not sure. It depends on how it is presented,
because often a union is not looked favorably
upon, which can be discouraging. But these
budget cuts are a big deal and you don't get
as much as you hope to for consistently put-
ting out exceptional work."
Peterson added that even as the University
faces budget difficulties, it recognizes the need
to reward the hard work of faculty and staff.
"We haven't had a salary freeze," Peterson
said, "and we have worked hard to allocate
resources in such a way that we can give mod-
est salary increases."
Schermerhorn said that thus far there has
been no response from the University, although
the University is aware of U-POWER's orga-
"They haven't said anything directly, but
there have been a few incidents of supervi-
sors attempting to quell union activity,"
Schermerhorn said. "I think it is in man-
agement's best interest as well for the office
workers to have a union; therefore everyone
knows their role and knows what is expected.
But we have seen that as money gets tight,
people do strange things. Office workers just
need to understand their rights."
Other unionized groups at the University,
such as the Lecturers' Employee Organiza-
tion and the Graduate Employees' Organiza-
tion, participate in bargaining sessions with the
University's bargaining committee to negotiate
contract issues and address other employment
The largest university in Michigan, Mich-
igan State University, succeeded in gaining
union protection for clerical and technical
workers in 1974. According to its website,
over the last three decades, members of the
Clerical-Technical Union have worked suc-
cessfully to improve employment conditions
and the voice within the university.
Continued from page 1A
running the asylum," he said. "(Petykiewicz's) job was to shape us up or ship
us out. That was the first time I heard the phrase, 'The beatings will continue
until morale improves."'
According to the reporter, Petykiewicz's arrival frightened the employ-
ees because they feared they might be fired.
"It was like a morgue in there," he said. "People were so afraid - they
were afraid for their working conditions, they were afraid for their jobs.
And they turned out to be right."
The result, Mortimer said, was a "drove of employees leaving."
Mortimer added that the editor of a newspaper often finds himself in a
difficult position when forced to take a side in a conflict between report-
ers and management because he spends his days in the newsroom but is
a part of management. Unlike Petykiewicz, Mortimer said, Malone was
approachable and supportive of reporters.
Employees often felt intimidated by Petykiewicz, Beckett said. They
were unwilling to approach him with their opinions on editorial policy.
"It was a more reporter-friendly place before (Petykiewicz) got there,"
Beckett said. "The reporters felt more valued and showed more initiative."
Management would find what they believed to be an important story and
then continue to report on it even after it was newsworthy, he said.
"When there was a big story, there was a tendency to beat the living shit
out of it," Beckett added. "We would ride that horse for days and days until
it dropped. Then we would keep riding."
Beckett said the change in the company's dress code following
Petykiewicz's hiring illustrated the difference between the Malone era
and the Petykiewicz era.
"We pretty much all wore jeans (under Malone)," Beckett said. "It was
relaxed and comfortable. I thought we put out a hell of a paper. When Petykie-
wicz came in, the jeans went out the door. Reporters and section editors were
looking over their shoulders and second-guessing themselves."
Since 1988, Beckett said, the quality of the paper has plummeted -
despite an abundance of strong reporters - because of a lack of things
such as investigative journalism.
"I think it's more superficial," he said.
According to several former employees, management was controlling even
before Petykiewicz. The employees cited the example of editorial board votes
over which candidate to endorse in the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections. On
both occasions, the board voted overwhelmingly to endorse President Ronald
Reagan's Democratic opponents - by votes as high as 7-1 - but management
decided to endorse Reagan. The single vote against the Democratic candidate
in 1984, Mortimer said, was the publisher's.
Mortimer said many former News employees suspect that Knight,
Petykiewicz and Holzman were ordered by the paper's management to
break the Vindicator's picket line.
"There are some people who say that this was not (Petykiewicz's idea),"
Mortimer said. "But I know he's perfectly low enough to do this on his own
without any prodding."
Continued from page 1A
years - a goal that Hanson stressed would greatly help the state's struggling
economy. "The states that have the most educated workforce have the most
robust economies," she said.
A concern that some adversaries of the program hold is that the new
proposal will end up hurting low-income students. Currently, a low-income
student receiving a Pell Grant - a federal grant based solely on need -
can also receive the merit scholarship. Under the proposal, however, the
merit award would completely subtract the amount received through a Pell
Grant, Hanson said. Therefore, a low-income student that qualifies for the
$4,000 merit award and also receives a Pell Grant of $3,000 would receive
$1,000 after the two grants are subtracted.
Pamela Fowler, the Director of the Office of Financial Aid, said the
problem in the program lies in this change. "I don't like any program
that subtracts the amount of a student's Pell Grant - it seems to hurt
the neediest students," she said. She added that 3,335 students at the Uni-
versity received the Pell Grant last year.
LSA sophomore Rachel Hathaway said the deduction of the Pell Grant
would be unfair to those students. Hathaway, an in-state student, received
a merit-based award as well as some need-based financial a. "I think the
merit and the Pell Grants should be separate. You shouldn't be penalized
based on your income if you qualify for the merit-based aid," she said.
Others feel that giving the award two years into college instead of in the
beginning will also deter low-income students from obtaining a higher educa-
tion. Jan Sveinar, a professor of labor economics at the University, said there
is a tradeoff in the way the new system will affect the state economy. Though
he agreed that the new system would reduce the number of drop-outs, he also
said it may discourage students who don't have the resources to enter into the
University in the first place. He said this would be detrimental.
"The evidence is overwhelming - students that receive a degree are
more productive and earn better wages. This is a great benefit for the econ-
omy," he said.
LSA junior Bill Salmonowicz is an in-state student who qualified for the
merit-based aid. He said the MEAP exam is fairly basic and most people
he knew in high school qualified. "It gives a lot of kids money," he said.
Because of this, Salmonowicz opposes Granholm's proposed changes.
But LSA sophomore Annette Arendt said the MEAP exam may
not be a good indicator of the merit of all students. "Someone who is
studying something like art wouldn't necessarily get the money based
on the MEAP test," she said.
Arendt also said that students need the extra money when they first get to
college -not two years later. "(The money) made me decide to go to school
in Michigan instead of out of state," she said.
Hanson said this new aid program would also only go to students
attending colleges and universities within the state. "The goal is to keep
people in Michigan," she said.
University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said the administration agrees with
the goals of the new merit award, but it is too early to comment on specific
aspects of the program. University President Mary Sue Coleman recently
announced M-PACT, a need-based financial aid program that may offset the
decreases in aid for low-income students at the University.
Director of the state's Office of Scholarships and Grants, Anne Wohlfert,
said most of the details are still being decided. The first round of scholarships
received by students would be in 2009.
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