UMN student government passes resolution in support of campus workers

The Teamsters Local 320, a union of campus dining and maintenance workers, are in negotiations with the U.

Teamsters Local 320 members stand present at an MSA forum to support a resolution drafted in support of workers on Tuesday, Oct. 8. 

Nur B. Adam

Teamsters Local 320 members stand present at an MSA forum to support a resolution drafted in support of workers on Tuesday, Oct. 8. 

by Niamh Coomey

The Minnesota Student Association passed a resolution in support of the Teamsters Local 320 labor union last week, showing solidarity for workers on campus as contract negotiations continue.

Several unions on campus are in negotiations with the University of Minnesota this fall. Union members from the Teamsters and AFSCME Local 3800 have shown up to demonstrate at recent events on campus, such as President Joan Gabel’s inauguration, to voice their discontent with how negotiations are going. MSA members voted in favor of the resolution, which primarily serves as a statement of support for the Teamsters.

MSA Representative to the Student Senate Consultative Committee Austin Berger, who authored the resolution, said he wanted to show support because of the service Teamsters provide to students through their jobs in food service and maintenance. 

“I think this will be a show of solidarity and a show of gratitude,” Berger said. 

The resolution garnered support from Rep. Mohamud Noor, DFL- Minneapolis, Students for a Democratic Society, Women for Political Change and the College Republicans, among others.

There was some disagreement between members on whether it was MSA’s place to comment on issues of pending negotiations between employees and the University. 

One of the points in the resolution says Gabel declined a meeting with the Teamsters in lieu of their ongoing negotiations. Some MSA members expressed concern that this aspect of the resolution would strain their relationship with the Office of the President.

Teamsters Vice President Curt Swenson, as well as Berger, noted that the Teamsters requested an introductory meeting, not an opportunity to speak with Gabel about negotiations. 

“We’re not trying to supersede negotiations or anything, we’re just trying to say, ‘Hey, welcome to the U,’” he said. 

With the majority of the MSA forum body in favor, the resolution passed. 

Teamsters Communications Director Gus Froemke said he hopes the resolution will demonstrate to Gabel and her office that there is support for service workers on campus. 

“This is amazing, this is historic. We have never received a vote of solidarity before from the students. It’s just incredible, and this is something that I think will change the dynamics in negotiations,” he said. 

Berger said that supporting labor unions is typically seen as a more liberal concern, but that this is not necessarily the case. 

“It’s becoming slowly …  more of a generally agreed upon thing that we should treat workers with dignity, that we should empower unions to protect workers,” he said. 

Addison Scufsa, the MSA representative for College Republicans, said leaving economic issues, such as worker pay, out of the resolution helped garner support from groups with differing opinions. 

“I think it was a well-crafted bill, and I’m glad to see that the campus community can get together on certain things even if we have disagreements on a wide range of issues,” he said. 

Swenson said he hopes the resolution shows there can be a mutually beneficial relationship between students and workers. 

“I think the students have to understand, you know, we’re not an enemy of them. We’re actually there to help them and support them,” he said. “I think this opportunity just shows we can find common bond[s] and help each other out.”

Berger also noted MSA’s legislative priority to move toward self-operated dining in the future, saying that building a relationship with the Teamsters will be beneficial for both groups. 

The Teamsters have several upcoming negotiation meetings set with the University, Swenson said, and one that occurred last week.