U of M service workers to ‘practice picket’ Tuesday over wages, employment practices

Groups of University of Minnesota students, faculty and staff members are expected to do a “practice picket” Tuesday to demand improvements for campus workers, as well as call for an end to university practices they say are harming research animals and the environment.

Event organizers say Tuesday’s event isn’t a strike, as a strike vote hasn’t been done.

However, organizers say if negotiations don’t improve, a strike vote is anticipated to be done during the next few weeks.

Organizers say a survey shows “poverty wages” have led to 9% of service employees experiencing homelessness while working at the university. Organizers go on to say that 61% of those surveyed say they cannot afford basic expenses, and 22% have not been able to afford food in the last year.

According to the PDF of survey results provided by organizers, 458 U of M service workers participated in the survey, which was run by the U of M Human Resources office and Mana Komai-Molle, a St. Cloud State University economics professor.

The PDF includes survey questions about racial discrimination, which 25% of employees of color say they agree to some extent that race affects the way employers treat employees at the U of M.

A copy of the PDF showing the results can be found at the bottom of this article.

The University provided the following statement in response to the event:

“The University of Minnesota is currently in mediation with Teamsters Local 320 and additional meetings with the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services are scheduled.

The University values the work of Teamsters 320 members and we hope to quickly reach an agreement that will allow us to attract, retain, and engage a diverse workforce. We are proud to offer competitive wages and meaningful benefits in addition to creating a culture where employees can be their best.

The University will continue to bargain in good faith with our labor represented employees. As part of the contract negotiation process, union members and representatives have the right to express their views through public demonstrations. The University anticipates demonstrations will be peaceful, as they have been in the past.”

University of Minnesota

Picket organizers also say they want to end “abusive employment practices” that are harmful to university research animals, the environment and local minority communities.

The accusations made by the groups picketing include:

  • More than 74% of employees are paid below the market rate
  • Poverty wages, staffing shortages and high employee turnover rates are lowering the university’s capacity to effectively care for its research animals
  • Staffing issues are reducing the capacity to run the university’s waste management program
  • The university is burning large amounts of campus waste in the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center incinerator, and the aforementioned incinerator has been criticized for polluting the surrounding area
  • The pollution disproportionately affects those already undergoing hardships, as it mainly affects a part of Minneapolis that faces racial and economic disparities
  • The U of M is guilty of green washing, which is a false representation of how environmentally-friendly an organization is

These accusations are directed at U of M President Joan Gable, according to picket organizers.

The event is scheduled to run from 2-5 p.m. Tuesday during the first student move-in day. A press release says protestors will be joined on the steps of Centennial Hall by elected officials, including Minnesota Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman and Rep. Mohamud Noor.

The survey results are as follows: