Cornell Workers Agree on Contract

After a three-day strike, Cornell's service and maintenance workers last week returned to work after accepting the terms the university proposed before the walkout.

Depending on how much they were making before the strike, workers' raises under the new agreement will represent anywhere from a 5 to 11 percent increase in the wage pool, far short of the 13 percent the union was asking before the strike.

"We're really disappointed," said United Auto Workers (UAW) representative Kathy Valentovich. She added that the only reason the union voted to accept the settlement was that the workers' negotiators did not think they would gain concessions by striking longer.

According to the settlement, no worker will receive starting pay of less than $5.18 an hour, a 38 cent increase from starting pay before the agreement, said the university's chief negotiator, E. Peter Tufford.

The terms of the settlement eliminate the lowest federal level of payment at Cornell, which means there will be fewer people paid less than the federal poverty level for a family of four, $11,200 a year, Valentovich said. The number of workers below the federal poverty level was a major source of contention between the university and its employees.

Workers for the privately-funded part of Cornell, parts of which are also run by the state, will receive two pay raises, one of 25 cents which is effective immediately, and one of 20 cents in December, Valentovich said. State-paid workers will receive a pay increase of 45 cents, and two additional payments of $250, she said.

The settlement followed three days of picketing and rallying during which there were some arrests, and one union striker was injured by a temporary worker's car, said David I. Stewart, assistant to the vice president for university relations.

A state hearing will be held in January to investigate Cornell's use of funds in its labor relations, Valentovich said. She said union members are hoping the hearing will further their cause next spring when negotiations begin again for wage rates for the 1988 fiscal year.

University officials said they have no knowledge of the hearing. "They have not had the courtesy" to inform the university of the hearing, Stewart said.

"In my opinion, [the hearing] is a smokescreen," said Tufford. He said he thought the terms of the agreement were fair.