University workers voice discontent with contracts

Some workers say they feel unfairly treated by the University after changes to their contracts.

Demonstrators from Teamsters Local 320 gather outside Pioneer Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 21. The group said that more than 30 University employees were unfairly laid off over the summer.

Cleo Krejci

Demonstrators from Teamsters Local 320 gather outside Pioneer Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 21. The group said that more than 30 University employees were unfairly laid off over the summer.

Niamh Coomey and Hana Ikramuddin

Some University of Minnesota workers say they feel unfairly treated by the University as conflict over their contract ensues. 

Documents obtained by the Minnesota Daily show that more than 30 workers had their contracts shifted from 12- to nine-month appointments with a notice of two weeks. Many workers expressed frustration with the shortened contract that left them out of work for the summer of 2019. 

Workers in Teamsters Local 320, a local labor union that represents many University workers, showed up with signs and speakers outside of the newly renovated Pioneer Hall on Aug. 21. 

Beginning a few hours before Pioneer’s ribbon cutting ceremony, demonstrators gathered outside the entrance with chants of discontent as they walked in circles across from the main entrance.  

“U of M, rich and rude, we don’t like your attitude,” they shouted.

Teamsters leadership say they are in the process of negotiating a new contract with the University and planning further action to express their discontent with the contract changes. 

A statement from University Services Vice President Mike Berthelsen said the reassigned workers did not lose working hours, they were simply reclassified as nine-month workers.

“Now, rather than placing employees on leave, employees have been placed on nine-month appointments, in compliance with the contract and consistent with other University employees who do not have work during the summer,” the statement reads.

Hannah Bernardson, a Teamsters business agent who was present at the demonstration, said she thinks many University workers have been negatively impacted by changes in hours. 

Teamsters Business Agent and Organizer Claire Thiele said the cutback on summer hours was surprising for many University dining employees.

“I know there are a lot of people who rely on the summer work. It was kind of a last minute thing where people who thought they were going to have work over the summer didn’t,” she said.

Some past negotiations between the University and Teamsters have been successful, Bernardson said, such as when the Teamsters negotiated a pay raise. She said the conflict between the University and dining workers has been ongoing in the past.

“When the workers raise their voice, they shut them down,” she said.  

The Minnesota Daily made multiple requests for comment about the conflict, but due to the privacy of pending negotiations, the University was not able to provide further information at this time, according to University Spokesperson Meagan Pierluissi.