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St. Louis County Plow Drivers Hope to Reach Contract Negotiation with County

WDIO
Updated: December 16, 2019 06:50 PM

After St. Louis County plow drivers voted to authorize a strike against the county Sunday, a spokesperson for the Teamsters Local 320 said they hope they can reach an agreement with the county before the potential strike unfolds.

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The approximately 180 union employees representing St. Louis County are snow plow operators and mechanics, in addition to bridge workers, building maintenance, parts specialists, and sign technicians.

The Teamsters Local 320 posted on Facebook that union members voted 112-1 on Sunday in Virginia. This is after no agreements on contract negotiations have been made between the union and the St. Louis County Public Works Department. 

"They feel it's unfortunate that they're in this position that the employer is disrespecting them as much as they are, especially for the quality of work that they do," said Erik Skoog, the recording secretary for Teamsters Local 320.

Skoog adds that this is an uncommon step for them to take.

"We feel that we've done everything possible through negotiation solutions, through offering up solutions and the county just has ignored those," said Skoog.

The main points they're focusing on with the strike are benefit accruals, healthcare alternatives, wages, and seniority rights.

“Since 2017 the healthcare costs have increased approximately 31 percent. There are other employees throughout the county, who have a different accrual rate than our teamster members do. We are seeking equality with respect to that," said Skoog.

St. Louis County declined WDIO's request for an interview on this story Monday.

The union said they'll file the intent to strike with the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) after Jan. 1. Any potential strike would be subject to mediation and an internal process set by teamsters.

"To date, we've had approximately five rounds of negotiations, and two mediation sessions, that one included 19 straight hours," said Skoog. "We want to give the employer time and give ourselves time to try to reach an agreement. The strike is something that's not taken lightly. It's something that we want to avert and avoid at all possible measures."

The current contract for county union members ends on Dec. 31.

“If a work stoppage is called, St. Louis County Teamsters will be supported by multimillion dollar Teamsters Strike and Defense Fund,” says Local 320 Secretary Treasurer and principal officer Brian Aldes. “Our members will have the full support of the Teamsters including strike sanctions against the County should a work stoppage occur.”

Skoog says there is a strike date in mind, but it isn't being released to the public. He says a potential strike doesn't have anything to do with the long hours that plow drivers have been working, but rather that the union members believe they aren't being recognized and fairly compensated for their work. 

St. Louis County Public Works is responsible for 3,000 miles of roads. This includes County State Aid Highways, County Roads and Unorganized Township Roads.

The county declined to comment further on the potential strike. a spokesperson released a statement Sunday saying,

"We respect the negotiations process and will continue to negotiate in good faith. We value these employees and the important work they do, and are optimistic that a positive outcome will be reached,” St. Louis County Communications Manager Dana Kazel sent in an emailed statement to WDIO News.

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