University employees authorize strike

There are still several process steps before a strike would take place, a University official said.

Allison Cramer

Hundreds of University of Minnesota workers represented by the union Teamsters Local 320 voted Thursday to approve a possible strike over working conditions.

The union represents workers in building and grounds maintenance, food service and custodial jobs, among others, who are asking for better wages and the ability to take longer vacations without the possibility of losing their jobs. The vote follows a September ruling by a Minnesota appellate court not to let University faculty, teaching specialists and lecturers form one bargaining unit in their push for unionization.

Teamsters at the University of Minnesota voted by 85 percent in favor to authorize the strike if no consensus is reached on a new collective bargaining agreement,  said Brian Aldes, secretary treasurer and principal officer for Local 320, at a Thursday press conference.

“I also want to stress to the public and to the University that this did not have to happen this way, and we are hopeful that we can reach an agreement with the assistance of a state-appointed mediator,” Aldes said Thursday.

Workers represented by Local 320 have worked without a contract since their most recent one expired in June. Aldes said the University’s offer to raise salaries wasn’t enough.

Nasser Nur, a building and grounds worker at the Mayo Clinic, said at the press conference the University is a good place to work compared to many, but employees aren’t treated in an acceptable manner.

Nur said one of the problems is that employees who take more than two weeks of approved vacation sometimes come back to find their jobs changed. He said East African employees experience this more frequently.

“We need dignity and respect from the University,” Nur said Thursday.

The University will remain open if a strike were to happen, said University Director of Employee Relations Patti Dion in a statement.

“The University continues to negotiate with the Teamsters with the intent to come to an agreement. There are still several process steps that would need to be taken before a strike would occur,” Dion said.

The University and Local 320 plan to meet with a state mediator on Nov. 27.