Union members picket on campus

Workers intend to protest outside Williams Arena until this weekend.

Union members picket on campus

Kathryn Raddatz

Union workers picketed outside Williams Arena on Wednesday to protest the hiring process for this weekendâÄôs FIRST Robotics competition at the University of Minnesota.
Members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees decided to protest after Sergeant Productions, the lighting and sound company they work for, was not rehired to put on this yearâÄôs competition.
More than 120 high school teams from Minnesota and surrounding states will debut their robot designs at the annual competition, which will take place April 1-2 in Williams and Mariucci arenas.
The company had worked at the event for several years and helps with other shows at the University throughout the year, protester Sherri Enger said.
âÄúThis is nothing against the [University],âÄù Enger said. âÄúItâÄôs to get awareness about companies like this that can lowball their bids to then win events.âÄù
Members of the union said Freestyle Production, which will provide the eventâÄôs sound and lighting this year, underbid the competition to get hired. The protest is meant to inform students about companies that pressure workers to act as independent contractors in order to avoid paying them employee benefits.
Since the IATSE members are not independent contractors, companies are required to pay taxes and insurance on all of the workers they hire through the union.
The protesters held signs calling Freestyle Productions âÄúunfairâÄù for âÄúnot providing IATSE wages and benefits.âÄù
They said they will continue to protest in shifts this week and possibly into the weekend while the robotics competition is going on.