By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A repair bill at the University of Minnesota is raising eyebrows as college mechanics fight for a better contract.

WCCO first reported on the conditions inside the Education Sciences Building last month.

Exit signs and emergency lights had dead batteries, and a locked door could have trapped students during a fire.

WCCO went to a rally on Friday where some University workers made demands that they say will keep students safer.

Brian Aldes is the secretary and treasurer of Teamsters Local 320. He spoke to his fellow union members with a megaphone.

“I’ve got a message from over 1,500 teamsters,” Aldes said. “The teamsters will not back down, rain or shine.”

Outside the office of the U of M’s president, campus workers called for more. From food service, to maintenance, to lawn care, they consider the college’s offer of a one-year contract with a 1.25-percent raise unfair.

u of m teamsters rally U Mechanics Fighting For Better Contract

Brian Aldes (credit: CBS)

“You don’t see what’s happening behind the scenes,” Aldes said. “Our workers perform an essential function and they do a fantastic job.”

Bruce Ballentine took us inside the Education Sciences Building last month to point to some problems he said he first flagged years ago.

“We want a little respect from the university,” Ballentine said.

Nearly half of the exit signs did not have working batteries, and a quarter of all emergency lights were out.

In the event of a lasting power outage, he says students wouldn’t know where to go. Since that story, Ballentine showed us the paperwork showing the U paid more than $30,000 to make repairs.

“They didn’t like me talking to WCCO, and it’s like who do you go to?” Ballentine said.

The school would not comment on the repair bill, but Patti Dion, director of employee relations, issued the following statement:

The University continues to negotiate with the Teamsters with the intent to come to an agreement. Our next mediation with the Teamsters is November 27 and 28.

There are still several process steps that would need to be taken before a strike would occur. If it did, the University would remain open during a strike and it would continue its important teaching, research and outreach work.

The Teamsters head back to the bargaining table later this month. If they can’t reach an agreement with the U, members could strike as soon as next month.

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