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UA employees rally for raises at State Capitol

By Cyndy Cole
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday Feb. 21, 2002

State, university officials say Legislature could resolve pay increases soon

PHOENIX - UA employees joined lawmakers and a crowd of about 500 other state employees outside the State Capitol yesterday in a rally to keep their raises.

Sixty-eight University of Arizona employees from Tucson and Phoenix traveled to the Capitol yesterday for a rally organized by Democratic House Minority Leader Ken Cheuvront. They heard speeches from 31 legislators.

The rally comes at a pivotal time, since lawmakers have been forced to focus on the budget, after the House and Senate presidents shut down the legislature last week pending approval of a state budget for the 2002 fiscal year.

The action the lawmakers take on the state budget now under consideration will determine whether UA employees receive salary increases this year.

"We believe with enough pressure, we can move the House Republicans to pass the budget supporting pay increases," said Democratic Rep. Marion Pickens.

Pickens, who represents UA in District 14, said the budget, and the pay increase, could be decided as soon as next week.

A budget originating in the Senate will likely pass there this afternoon, she said, but will come up against a House version that does not include salary increases.

Greg Fahey, UA associate vice president for government relations, is optimistic about the future of the raises. Fahey said it appears that some sort of pay increase will be approved, but just what that increase will be, and when it would be distributed, is still up for debate.

As matters stand now, and if the House and Senate take no action, the pay raises will be distributed April 1 as planned, Fahey said.

But even if the raises are distributed, the pay increase is still small and hardly keeps up with increases in the cost of living, said Gisela Duell, program coordinator for Campus Health who was at the rally.

Donna Martinez, who works at a Phoenix admissions office recruiting students, said she needs the raise.

She works two jobs, totaling 55 hours weekly between her UA job and a job as a waitress. If the raises are approved, Martinez plans to quit her job as a waitress, work for UA full-time and begin paying off debts from college.

Pay increases for state employees have recently come under scrutiny from Gov. Jane Dee Hull, who has stated that raises are a luxury the state cannot afford as it tries to find $250 million to fill a state wide budget shortfall.

The House recently passed budgets that would eliminate a 5 percent or $1,500 pay raise for all public employees, which the Senate has not taken action on.

The Senate has moved to keep the raises, with Democratic Sen. Ruth Solomon, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, only approving bills that keep them intact.

The message repeated by speakers at the rally: Call your representative, write letters and get to the ballot box in November. The next step for faculty and staff trying to secure the pay increase is a letter-writing campaign, said Staff Advisory Council President Lisa Wakefield.

Reflecting this sentiment, one woman's sign read: "LISTEN to us now, or you will HEAR us in November."

Arizona is the state's largest employer, which means a large number of public employees' demands could carry clout in an election year.

Democratic Rep. John Loredo gave a blunt message to rally-goers about why they are wrangling with representatives over raises, and what they should about it.

"They don't respect you because you haven't taken to the streets and kicked their asses out of office," he said.


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