A local Teamsters union in Duluth largely comprised of snow plow operators plans to strike if officials with the St. Louis County government fail to agree to the union’s terms for a new labor contract.
Teamsters Local 320 represents nearly 180 employees in the St. Louis County Department of Public Works. Most of the workers are snow plow operators and mechanics.
A press release said that union members voted to authorize a strike following the December 31 expiration of their labor contract with the county.
The vote to strike is the result of “St. Louis County’s healthcare inequality for employees of the Public Works Department who are provided less coverage and forced to pay 31 percent more than management and non-union employees,” the union said in a statement.
“Furthermore, Teamsters are demanding a restoration of their seniority rights formerly rescinded through arbitration,” the statement added.
As required by law, the union filed its intent to strike with the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) on Wednesday. The process requires the union and county to participate in a 10-day “cooling off” period before the BMS calls both parties back for a mediation session. If the session fails to produce a new agreement, then county employees are permitted to strike on any future date and at any time.
“We have offered many solutions to help St. Louis County retain and recruit top talent,” said Teamsters Local 320 Business Agent and lead negotiator Erik Skoog. “Instead, the County has been combative and chose to ignore our requests.”
Union officials said that 99.1 percent of their members voted to authorize a work stoppage against the county.
“If a work stoppage is called, St. Louis County Teamsters will be supported by multimillion dollar Teamsters Strike and Defense Fund,” said Brian Aldes, Local 320 secretary treasurer and principal officer. “Our members will have the full support of the Teamsters including strike sanctions against the County should a work stoppage occur.”
St. Louis County is the largest county by area in the state and stretches from Duluth to the Canadian border. The union noted that its workers are “vital for inter-county travel and commerce” in the area, but a St. Louis County spokesperson told WDIO that there is a plan in place to ensure the roads are still plowed if a strike occurs.
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