Workers face leave issues

Labor unions say U workers aren’t receiving the leave they should.

Benjamin Farniok

When Janel Mendoza had her second child, she found that the two weeks allotted for maternity leave were not enough to recover, and she didn’t have enough sick leave to stay out of work longer.
Workers across the University are raising concerns about how the school handles leave for new parents, sick workers and workers observing religious holidays during the school year. University staff members say some of these employees should get more leave, but are denied or reprimanded because of scheduling conflicts and efficiency concerns.
Mendoza, an executive account specialist for Facilities Management at the University of Minnesota-Morris, said she was able to take more time off because she was able to use disability leave and get support from her husband, but many workers at the University are unable to get similar help.
Next week, the University Senate’s Social Concerns Committee will receive testimony from representatives of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3800 and Teamsters Local 320 about how leave affects school employees and how some issues might be helped.
AFSCME and the Teamsters represent clerical employees and workers — like food service employees and custodians at the University. 
Mendoza will testify at the meeting next week.
“You shouldn’t have to stress out about this kind of thing,” she said.
Faculty members receive three times the amount of maternity leave than staff in civil service or clerical roles.
Cherrene Horazuk, AFSCME chapter president, said the difference creates inequity for a workforce, and she said her union wants leave time to be increased.
“For us it’s a basic matter of social justice and equity at the University,” she said.
Currently, AFSCME is involved in contract disputes with University administrators over maternity leave as well as wages, she said.
Although paid sick leave is outlined in University policy, it is sometimes not followed, said Randy Croce, chair of the Social Concerns Committee.
“We are hoping these policies that exist are implemented,” he said.
Horazuk said University Aramark workers — who provide some of the school’s dining services — have been reprimanded for taking time off, despite the leave being part of their contract. She said school employees in other areas of service, like Facilities Management, also face issues with sick leave.
Facilities Management has issues with religious holiday leave, Croce said. Due to the high number of Muslim employees who often work the same shifts or on the same team, a religious holiday during the school year could disrupt work and lead to managers denying leave, despite it being allowed under policy, he said.
The University’s Office of Human Resources said in a statement they are not aware of any instances of denial of leave for non-unionized staff.
The stories so far are anecdotal, Croce said, but he said he hopes he will get more concrete information at the meeting next week.