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Campus Earth Day Activists Demand Univ. of Minnesota Stop Greenwashing, Pay Teamsters a Living Wage

Local 320 Earth MNU Action 2

Workers and Students Call on President Gabel and University Administration to End Opposition to Green Training Program

(MINNEAPOLIS) – Today, University of Minnesota (UMN) service workers represented by Teamsters Local 320 were joined at a rally by student and environment groups, including the Minnesota Student Association and UMN Students for Climate Justice. Together, they marched on the Offices of University President Joan Gable to deliver a petition calling on the state’s largest university to pay living wages and stop greenwashing its waste reduction program.

The service and waste workers who clean buildings, collect trash, maintain grounds and prepare and serve food at university campuses and research facilities held banners and distributed leaflets that read, “Living Wages, Living Planet.” They also demanded that UMN end its opposition to H.F. 4539, legislation introduced by State Representative Heather Keeler (D – Moorhead) that would create and fund a Green Training Program at UMN. On March 29, 2022, University of Minnesota Vice President for Human Resources Ken Horstman submitted a letter to the Minnesota House of Representatives Higher Education Committee in opposition to the Green Training Program.

The Green Training Program would help train frontline employees and student workers on sustainability measures such as decreasing energy use and how to reduce and properly sort solid waste. The legislation would also help address staffing shortages and high rates of turnover that are currently hampering UMN’s efforts to effectively implement its Climate Action Plan and waste reduction initiatives. The legislation would provide employees with an incentive to participate in the training program via an increase in hourly pay.

Maddie Miller is the Chair of the Minnesota Student Association’s Environmental Accountability Committee.

“The university’s waste reduction goals look good on paper, but we are concerned that a lack of proper training – as well as chronic understaffing and high turnover due to low pay for student workers and service employees – are preventing the university from effectively implementing sustainability measures,” Miller said. “For example, right now these problems are adding to the large amounts of trash from UMN’s Twin Cities campus that are burned in the garbage incinerator located at the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center, which is the 32nd largest greenhouse gas emitter in Minnesota.” 

Sara Parcells is a UMN building and grounds worker and Local 320 Trustee.

“University administrators argue that they already provide sustainability training to employees and that the funding should be used to purchase equipment,” Parcells said. “Unfortunately, reports from workers show that the training provided by UMN is inadequate and isn’t offered in several key languages. Sometimes training isn’t offered at all. Additionally, equipment isn’t useful when there aren’t enough employees to operate it.”

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