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Published April 19, 2024

UMN service workers announce plans to strike

Teamsters Local 320 announced in a press conference Monday that service employees voted to strike for better wages.
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.

Teamsters Local 320, which represents 1,500 service workers at the University of Minnesota, announced Monday during a press conference that the strike vote for higher wages they initiated Oct. 4 and 5 passed by a 93% margin.

Teamsters members voted to commence a strike in light of the back and forth contract negotiations with the University, in which the University has refused to meet their requests.

Brian Aldes, principal officer and secretary treasurer of Teamsters Local 320, said the date of the strike will not be announced at this time. Workers could strike as early as Oct. 22.

“The 1,500 service workers at the University are the people who are responsible for the quality of life of our students who live and attend school at the University,” Aldes said. 

Teamsters leaders and the University have been negotiating the bargaining agreement for Teamsters members since the last contract expired in June. They have met for mediation seven times with the most recent meeting on Thursday.

“We are not excited that we’re at this point in our bargaining,” Aldes said. “Our goal is to address our members’ priorities in full to bring service workers at the University out of poverty and negotiate a $20 an hour minimum wage, to ensure that service workers at the University have year round work and to make their work at the University the career that it should be.”

Aldes said the University put forward its final offer to Teamsters during mediation on Thursday. This offer averages at a 7.3% wage increase for service workers; however, Aldes said it is only a 3.85% increase for most employees. 

Teamsters leaders put forward a minimum starting wage of $20 an hour for service employees during bargaining.

A Teamsters survey of 458 current and former University service employees reported that 61% of current University service workers do not earn enough to pay for basic expenses. In the past year, 22% reported going hungry and not eating because they could not afford food. 

More than 8% of those surveyed reported being homeless at least one time while working for the University.

Aldes said the University’s final offer also removes the language that gives Teamsters the right to negotiate health insurance in future bargaining agreements. After filing their intent to strike, the union will enter a 10 day “cooling off period,” when Aldes said he hopes the State Bureau of Mediation Services will order both parties back to the bargaining table.

Three current University service employees spoke at the conference to share their disappointment in the University and their desire to see the wages change.

Sara Parcells, a buildings and grounds worker at the University for 21 years, said during the press conference that the wages have stayed the same or gone backwards since she began working for the University.

“The time is now for Teamsters to get the raise we deserve,” Parcells said.

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