Press Releases

Teamsters Demand University of Minnesota End Poverty Wages and Discrimination

UMN Chicago Protest

Teamster Service Workers Call Out Worker Abuse at Big 10 Black Alumni Conference

Press Contact: Matt McQuaid Phone: (202) 624-6877 Email:

(CHICAGO) – Over the weekend, University of Minnesota (UMN) workers represented by Teamsters Local 320 attended BANboree, the inaugural Big 10 Black Alumni Network Conference in Chicago, to call on school administrators to end worker abuse at the university.

With significant assistance from Chicago-area Teamsters and Teamsters Joint Council 25, the workers distributed leaflets and spoke with many Big 10 alumni about their struggle to get UMN to address their concerns regarding poverty-level wages, discrimination, food insecurity and homelessness. The leaflets and banners read, “UMN: Worker Abuse Doesn’t Belong in the Big 10.”

Local 320 represents custodians, dormitory attendants, food service workers, animal research caregivers, and members at the five main UMN campuses. Many of the workers are Black, including immigrants from Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and other east African countries.

“It’s disgusting that a major university like the University of Minnesota, which is paying its president over $1 million every year and has excess revenues of almost $1 billion each year, has workers who can’t afford to buy groceries or cover the cost of rent,” said Teamsters General President Sean M. O’Brien. “We are supporting our brothers and sisters in this fight for a fair contract, no matter the costs.”

According to a recent survey of more than 450 current and former UMN service workers, over 62 percent reported not earning enough money to pay for basic expenses every month. Almost 12 percent reported experiencing homelessness at least one time while working at the university and 19 percent reported sometimes being hungry but not eating because they did not have enough money for food.

A recent study on staff compensation conducted by the UMN Office of Human Resources shows that job salaries for campus operations positions are, on average, 13 percent below the market median and 74.5 percent of workers’ salaries are below the market salary median.

Sandra Johnson has been a building and grounds worker at UMN for over twenty years.

“I’ve worked here for many years, and it’s still a struggle to afford rent and pay the bills,” said Johnson. “It’s time for university administrators to answer the call to address the needless pain and suffering they are inflicting on their frontline workers’ families and our communities.”

The survey results also indicate that UMN workers are concerned about discriminatory treatment in the workplace. Twenty-eight percent of workers of color “strongly agree” or “agree” that their race, nationality, or ethnic group affects the way university supervisors treat them. Almost 50 percent of female and non-binary workers report that university supervisors discriminate against workers based on their race, nationality, gender, religion, disability, or sexual orientation at least some of the time.

“The University of Minnesota is one of our state’s most respected and treasured institutions,” said Brian Aldes, Local 320 Secretary-Treasurer. “But until the university’s current administration moves beyond marketing campaigns and makes a real commitment to supporting its diverse workforce of 1,500 frontline workers and addressing their concerns, the university will never reach its true potential.”

Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.2 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at