After nine months of contract negotiations, plus three days of marathon mediation without an agreement, the University of Minnesota has given the union that represents its 1,500 service workers a final offer that, on its face, might look pretty damn good.
It has to be, because service workers have already voted to authorize a strike that could coincide with the Super Bowl. The employees include custodians and groundskeepers, people who work in waste management, food service, intercampus deliveries, and the mail room. They take care of research animals, toil on university farms, and maintain the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. There are several events across campus during Super Bowl week, and any strike could make for catastrophe.
Members authorized the strike because they were tired of being "strung along" in fruitless negotiations, says Teamsters Local 320 secretary-treasurer Brian Aldes.
In response, the university offered a $15 minimum wage, a 2 percent wage increase each year of the two-year contract for many employees, a $300 lump sum each year for all university Teamsters, and six-week accrued leave without the risk of termination.
The vote kicked off Wednesday and will continue through January 23. If workers do not accept the offer, they will strike on January 26. And if their issues aren't immediately resolved, the demonstration could last through Super Bowl Sunday on February 4.
The contract offer is a divisive one, pitting half of the service workers against the other, Aldes says. The 2 percent yearly raise will apply only to senior employees who are at the top of their pay scale. Others will not receive the cost-of-living adjustment. And the $15 minimum wage will be phased in by the end of 2019.
Workers have other issues that the U didn't address, such as holiday pay and uniform reimbursement.
"So we have a struggle," Aldes says. "I have to mention we have made progress ... But I can't tell you that our membership, Teamsters, are going to ratify the final offer from the employer."
Teamsters is staying neutral on how members should vote.
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