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U of M workers launch strike authorization vote

Around 1,500 workers at the university say they're fighting to end "poverty wages" and "chronic understaffing," among other issues.

MINNEAPOLIS — A group of University of Minnesota (UMN) workers announced Monday the beginning of voting to authorize a strike. 

According to Teamsters Local 320, the union representing 1,500 UMN workers, the strike authorization vote comes after the university reportedly refused to address issues such as abusive employment, chronic understaffing and poverty wages. Workers involved in the strike authorization vote perform jobs including ground maintenance, food preparation and building cleanings, among other services.

“We don’t want to go on strike. We want to continue to do our jobs to keep the University up and running for UMN students, but we can’t do that when we’re not making enough to pay our bills and put food on the table. We can’t do that when we’re barely making enough to survive,” Sara Parcells, a University of Minnesota Building and Grounds Worker said in a statement Monday. “UMN brings in billions of dollars each year off the backs of workers like me. It’s time UMN supports working people in Minnesota and pays its essential workers a living wage.”

In a statement, the union claimed that the university "has had months to negotiate a fair contract with its workers," and "instead chose to sit back and watch while its workers quit to find better paying jobs."

“Rather than coming to the table to bargain a contract that will lift workers out of poverty and make UMN a place people want to work, UMN is letting good employees quit and letting its operations fall apart,"  said Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local 320 Brian Aldes in a statement. "The launch of the strike authorization vote today shows UMN workers are fed up and ready to take actionable steps to achieve fair pay and respect on the job.” 

The university released a statement to KARE 11 in response to the ongoing situation: 

The University of Minnesota remains committed to reaching a settlement agreement with the Teamsters and our next mediation session is scheduled for October 6 and 7.

We continue to look for opportunities to collaborate with our union partners and resume mediation in order to reach a solution for Teamsters members before a strike occurs. In the meantime, we are making contingency plans to ensure continuity of operations.

In August, hundreds of UMN service workers protested in a "practice picket," to demand an end to the issues at hand, which was joined by students, faculty members, and elected officials, including Minnesota Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman. After the initial protest, Teamsters Local 320 filed a lawsuit charging the University with violating the Public Employment Labor Relations Act and "attempting to intimidate and coerce employees," according to a press release. 

The strike authorization vote will run through Oct. 7, and votes will be counted on Oct. 10. 

RELATED: University of Minnesota says staffing shortage is impacting dining operations

RELATED: University of Minnesota service workers hold 'practice picket' for higher wages on move-in day

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