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University of Minnesota service employees accepted the school’s final contract offer, averting a threatened strike by 1,500 workers that could have affected planning for the Super Bowl.
International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 320 announced Jan. 23 that university employees ratified the final offer after bargaining for nine months and working without an agreement for more than six months. The union represents a wide range of university employees, including landscapers, mechanics, cooks, custodians, and lab animal attendants.
The union offered scant details of the agreement but said a new pay floor of $15 per hour had been reached on behalf of 150 low-wage workers. Workers in the top pay scale will receive annual increases of 2 percent. The union noted that step increases would continue under the agreement and workers would be awarded annual $300 lump sum payments.
The parties also agreed to a more flexible policy for the use of accrued leave. Bargaining unit members are now free to use up to six weeks of accrued leave without losing their previous position or work location. Previously the guarantee was limited to two weeks.
Brian Aldes, secretary-treasurer of Local 320, acknowledged that a range of wage and benefit issues remain unsettled and would be handled through additional bargaining with the university’s human resources office.
“Though this vote today is a victory on many pressing items, issues surrounding dignity, respect and working conditions for University Teamsters remain unresolved,” Aldes said in a statement. “Today we call on the University to address workers’ lasting issues through Meet and Confer and during future contract talks.”
Patti Dion, director of employee relations at the University of Minnesota, said the university was pleased with the ratification vote. In an emailed message, Dion said the contract still requires the approval of the university’s Board of Regents.
The ratification vote averts a threatened strike, authorized by rank-and-file university employees last November. University officials feared the work stoppage could affect festivities associated with the Super Bowl, scheduled for Feb. 4 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Some pre-game activities had been scheduled on the university campus.
The NFL Players Association called on the university to reach an agreement with the Teamsters. In a Jan. 8 letter to the university, the players union said it wouldn’t have signed contracts for an on-campus event if it had known of the local labor dispute. The union called on the university to “resolve all remaining issues with Teamsters Local 320 soon.”
Local 320 accused the university of interfering with the ratification vote just a week before the mail ballots were counted. The union objected to a letter to employees from Dion that expressed support for the tentative pact. As a result, the union filed an unfair labor practice charge against the university in district court on Jan. 18.
In a letter to members, Aldes said workers need to make decisions, “without any interference from management.” Aldes called Dion’s letter “misleading and unfortunate.”
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