Sit back a spell and let me tell you a story about the Association of Concerned Employees (ACEs).
Back in 1991 the academic computing teams at the University of Minnesota were set to be laid off and we could "apply" for a job with the new quasi-private sector outfit the "Minnesota Supercomputer Center" (MSC).
So none of us liked that. Over 300 of us set up an effort to stop it. The VAX/Unix/MVS/Unix/PC/CDC units stopped fighting for crumbs and joined forces. Letters to the editor were written, politicians where contacted, petitions were circulated.
Mailing lists, and even a BBS were put into use to coordinate.
Even, ahem, a listening device was placed in the Board of Regents office.
We were not in a union but AFSCME supported our demands and upped the pressure.
The efforts worked. The privatization was called off. There were job losses, but we had a voice that we used to make the best of the situation. We had input into how we could reorganize the units and better support the students and faculty.
Oh and we finally got the audit of the corrupt MSC a few years later:
`U' backs off of plan to privatize computer services
Published: October 23, 1991
By Jim Dawson; Staff Writer
Intense pressure from many of the 330 civil service employees who
operate the University of Minnesota's computer systems apparently has
forced school officials to back away from a plan to privatize computer
services and place them under the Supercomputer Center.
Ettore Infante, vice president for academic affairs, who
announced the privatization plan last week met with computer workers
He told them that because of concerns regarding his
original plan, a reorganization of computer services would occur
"without the involvement of the Minnesota Supercomputer Center or a subsidiary of it."
Instead, Infante said, an outside consultant will be hired to
determine the best way to consolidate and reorganize the university's
several computer service centers.
About half of the 330 computer specialists would have been laid off at the end of the year under Infante's privatization plan.
There will probably be layoffs under any new plan, but how many and when hasn't been determined.
Infante's privatization announcement caught the computer
specialists by surprise last week, but they quickly used a computerized
electronic mail network to organize their opposition.
Their main objection focused on the involvement of the Supercomputer Center.
The center, a quasiprivate corporation partially owned by
the university, is not subject to public accounting. Gov. Arne Carlson
recently cut $8 million in state funding from the center's budget, and
many of the computer specialists believed that Infante's move was simply
a way to funnel new funds into the center.
Infante denied that charge and cited the inefficient,
outdated computer systems and networks throughout the university as his
reason for consolidation.
His move yesterday was welcomed by most employees, but many remained skeptical of his motives.
"I was encouraged that they seem to be backing down," said
Cheryl Vollhaber, a specialist with academic computing services.
The employees demanded to be involved in the planning for
consolidating the computer systems, something most agree is badly
However, Infante was noncommittal about employee participation.
The computer specialists said that they have been calling for
a consolidation and reorganization of computer services for a long
time, but that the administration has ignored them. They are
frustrated, several said, because although they are the computer
experts, they are not being consulted.
"Our focus will be having an employee representative on the
planning board," said Stephen Collins, of the university's