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Mizzou warns workers after ‘disruptive’ protest over replacing custodial services

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ABC17 News
MU Campus on June 24


The head of the operations division of the University of Missouri sent his staff an email threatening discipline after a protest over custodial and landscaping jobs became "disruptive."

In an email obtained by ABC 17 News, the vice-chancellor of operations Gary Ward said while the university respects the right to peacefully protest, it has set "reasonable time, place and manner restrictions," which he says were broken last Thursday.

A spokesman for the University Christian Basi said in a statement that during the march on Thursday, protesters walked inside Jesse Hall and "were quite loud, disrupting some of the work happening in the building at the time."

The email goes on to say "should further demonstrations take place, anyone who engages in behavior that is disruptive to the regular operations of the university can expect to be appropriately disciplined in accordance with university policies..."

Basi said disciplinary actions could range anywhere from a verbal warning to termination.

The protests come as the university is now reviewing bids from private companies to take over its in-house custodial and landscaping services amid a dire budget crisis.

The union that represents many of the workers, Laborers Local 955, as well as Missouri Jobs With Justice organized this protest, among other protests over the same issue.

ABC17 News has spoken to both leaders from Laborers Local 955 and Missouri Jobs With Justice, but neither could comment on the email at the time.

The backlash against the university's potential cost-saving measure is also coming from faculty and students.

969 MU faculty, staff and students signed a letter that was sent to President Mun Choi expressing concerns over terminating what could be nearly 250 positions from the university.

Members of the Faculty Council are also working to craft a resolution vote for Thursday's meeting, which would recommend the university stick with it's in-house workers.

The chair of the council's Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Committee Rebecca Graves said she believes it's the council's position to support not just faculty, but all staff of the university.

"The impression given with privatizing is that that group of people, that group of employees isn't as important, that they can be outsourced and that their contribution isn't as valuable," Graves said. "That may not be the intended message given, but that is one of the one's that comes across."

As the university is looking at any way to cut corners during this historic budget crisis, Graves said leaders need to look at the great impact before going with a private company.

"It needs to be evaluated not only as a number but also how it impacts the people and how it impacts the community at MU," Graves said. "We are a team, we are a community, we are not just individual parts that can be exchanged or outsourced."

Graves plans to present her resolution that mirrors the petition sent to faculty council Thursday.

The options are still being reviewed. Basi said in a previous interview the university hopes to make a decision in late June or early July. If a private company is selected to take over either custodial or landscaping or both, the university hopes they'll be on campus by early August.

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Connor Hirsch

Connor Hirsch reports for the weekday night shows, as well as Sunday nights.


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