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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Romney Refuses Classified Contracts

In a surprise turnaround, Governor Mitt Romney has refused to fund contracts for UMB’s classified staff, Service Employees International Unions Local 888, after funding the rest of the higher education contracts the Legislature sent him at the end of last year.

This means that close to 400 classified staff on campus will not receive any raises in pay or benefits until their contracts are funded. Classified staff members include clerical staff, groundskeepers, and maintenance workers, among the lowest paid workers on campus.

According to Jeffery Hall, spokesman for the SEIU Local 888, the union was notified that their contract would go unfunded, but Romney’s office denied punting the contracts when contacted by union representatives.

However, a letter obtained by The Mass Media from John Jesensky, director of employee relations at the Human Resources Division for the Commonwealth, says, “HRD [Human Resources Division] is returning the proposed agreement for further negotiation as it provides retroactive salary increases and other economic enhancements that cannot be sustained under current fiscal conditions.”

The letter also suggests that funding appropriations in the SEIU Local 888 contract were not in line with “funding expectations for proposed collective bargaining agreements.”

Hall denies that the contracts were unreasonable in any way and states, “It’s just a matter of arrogance and of trying to sweep the lowest paid workers under the rug.”

Hall said that the contracts were “a drop in the bucket.”

Susana Segat, Local 888 president, is “appalled by [Governor Romney’s] actions.” She says their proposal was negotiated in good faith and that “it’s a fairness issue. We worked very hard to get these contracts funded.”

Local 888 is trying to make an end-run around Romney.

Continued Hall, “Right now, the strategy is to get the Legislature to approve the contract by circumventing the governor.” Local 888 plans a campaign to raise awareness of the contract situation on campus and at the Statehouse.

Ed Hayward, spokesman for the university, said that as soon as Chancellor Jo Ann Gora got the news, she called for a meeting between administration and union officials to discuss “a joint strategy to move forward on this.”

Hayward also says that classified staff contracts are a high priority for Gora; “The chancellor has made it clear that this is something the administration and the unions can work together on.”

Segat had some harsh criticism for Romney on the contract issue, saying, “This is part of the governor’s strategy of being unfair to the working family.”

Higher education contracts have been a thorny subject for the unions and the governor’s office. Contracts for higher education unions went unfunded for three years, stalling cost-of-living wage increases, raises, and health benefit increases until last winter.

Romney put off funding the contracts until the last minute when funding snuck through before the Legislature adjourned for the year. So far, all the higher education contracts have been funded, including faculty, professional staff, and classified workers on other campuses.

Repeated calls for comment to the governor’s office and the Employee Relations Department of the Human Resources Division went unanswered.

About the Contributor
Carl Brooks served as news editor for The Mass Media the following years: 2003-2004