University of Missouri workers who are part of Laborers Local 955 on Saturday staged a rally on campus, protesting what they see as a loss of time off in a system-wide proposal for paid time off.
Carrying signs reading "Hands off our benefits," "Union yes, PTO no" and "PTO = MU Greed," the rally-goers marched from Speakers Circle, past Jesse Hall to the Columns on Francis Quadrangle.
Chants included: "I don't know, but I've been told, Mun Choi's pockets are lined with gold," referring to the UM System president.
There were an estimated 75 to 100 in attendance.
The proposal would eliminate classifications for vacation, personal and sick days, opting for the single category of paid time off.
It would reduce by 10 the total number of days off for both hourly and salaried workers, but it also would add parental or caregiver leave and short-term disability leave of up to four weeks for employees who need it.
New hourly employees in their first year currently are given 12 days of vacation, 12 days of sick leave, four personal days, four days over winter break and nine paid holidays, for a total of 41 days.
Under the proposal, new hourly workers would receive 18 days of paid time off, four winter break days and nine holidays, for 31 days.
Days off for new salaried workers would be reduced from 46 to 36.
The plan is designed to provide more equitable time off, reduce abuse of sick time and promote scheduling time off in advance, according to the proposal literature.
It was introduced at the June 23 UM System Board of Curators meeting. The board may consider it for a vote at its September meeting. It's scheduled to take effect in 2024.
Union organizer Andrew Hutchinson urged those who are eligible and hadn't done so yet to join the union.
"If we had a stronger union here, the university would be bargaining for this," Hutchinson said.
Workers have been loyal throughout the pandemic, said campus dining services employee Kevin Perkins at Speakers Circle.
"They're trying to pick our pockets" with this proposal, Perkins said.
It's not a way to retain employees, as officials have claimed, he said.
Faculty member Seth Howes, a professor of German language, spoke in solidarity with the campus workers.
"Without staff, faculty can't do their work," Howes said.
His eight years at the university have been a downward trajectory or erosion of benefits, he said.
"Everything they have done to me, they have done to staff three times over," Howes said.
Demetria Pittman, who works in the MU Student Center, spoke before the rally about her opposition to the proposal.
"For me, I'm going to need it," Pittman said of the current amount of time off. She said she has health problems of her own, and elderly parents and grandchildren who need her care.
She was asked about the caregiver leave included in the proposal.
That's positive, but not always practical, she said.
"You have to be approved for those things," Pittman said.
It would be a loss of benefits for workers, she said.
"If they take it away, we're being punished," Pittman said. "It's being ripped right from under our feet."
All feedback is welcome, said UM System spokesman Christian Basi.
"We have four upcoming information sessions that we hope employees will take time to attend," Basi wrote in a text message. "It's important that we get their feedback."
Roger McKinney is the education reporter for the Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-815-1719. He's on Twitter at @rmckinney9.
This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: MU workers' union rallies in opposition to paid time off proposal