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Editorial Cartoon: Alabama and IVF
Editorial Cartoon: Alabama and IVF
Published March 1, 2024

Students for Climate Justice rallies for student, faculty management wage increases

University group Students for Climate Justice held a rally calling for livable wages and environmental accountability as union negotiations approach.
Image by Andrew Stoup
Students and protesters march toward Northrop on Friday, April 22. The protest, planned by Teamsters Local 320, was organized to bring attention to the low wages of union workers and custodial staff at the University.

The University’s Students for Climate Justice group held a “Living Wages, Living Planet Earth Day Rally” on Friday to advocate for higher wages for students and dining, waste and facilities management workers.

Representatives from the Teamsters Local 320 union, the Environmental Student Association (ESA) and the Minnesota Student Association (MSA) attended the rally to listen to the Teamsters members speak about living wages and discuss current contract terms. At the rally, a petition signed by more than 500 people was delivered to University President Joan Gabel’s office outlining their call for higher wages for Teamsters 320 workers at the University, according to Teamsters 320 staff organizer Jackson Kerr.

More than 100 students, faculty and union workers also gathered in Coffman Union to discuss the need for living wages at the University and fight for a more sustainable planet. Some people spoke at the event and student groups tabled and shared information with attendees.

The event follows recent activism to raise wages for student employees. Some campus employers, such as the Institute on the Environment and the College of Biological Sciences have raised wages to $15.91 and $15 from approximately $12.

The rally also discussed employment contracts for facilities management and waste workers represented by the Teamsters Local 320 union. Their contract expires on June 30, and negotiations are set to begin this spring. Dining services workers are also included in the contract negotiations.

Current terms will continue until both parties meet to negotiate and finalize new agreements and a contract, according to Mani Vang, senior director of Employee and Labor Relations in the University’s Office of Human Resources.

Kerr said they originally hoped to begin negotiations in mid-April.

“The University pushed back negotiations because there wasn’t a lead negotiator hired yet, and they don’t have the money from the Board of Regents,” Kerr said. “The longer the wait, the longer the contract stays the same.”

Buildings and grounds worker Sara Parcells said she felt that since the COVID-19 pandemic, workload for custodial and facilities management staff has increased with additional daily disinfecting practices.

Although workers received an additional $2 an hour in ‘hazard pay’ for a few months, there was no permanent compensation increase to match the additional workload, according to Christine O’Connor, an administrative senior building and grounds worker.

Senior building and grounds worker Jim Larson said many workers are content with benefits offered to employees, but wages don’t cover expenses such as rent and the cost of groceries with inflation.

“As part of the negotiating committee, people are concerned about the cost of living,” Larson said.

Workers said they want to see student wages increase as these workers are necessary to maintain campus dining and housing services.

“We want to be here and retire at the University, but they are making it really hard,” O’Connor said. “We want them to incentivize and keep people here.”

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