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St. Louis Co. Plow Operators Approve Contract

Updated: January 20, 2020 10:29 PM

A union representing St. Louis County plow drivers has approved a new contract.

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The vote of 133-0 by members of Teamsters Local 320 came at a meeting Monday afternoon in Eveleth.  Negotiators reached the deal early Monday morning after a 15-hour negotiating session that started at 11 a.m. Sunday.

According to the union, the contract includes wage increases of 2% plus $0.55 in 2020, 2.25% in 2021 and 2.25% in 2022.

The county said the new agreement also includes a higher starting wage rate for new equipment operators, plus other revisions to wage schedules that allow employees to accelerate through the salary ranges faster. This means most employees, over the three year period, will receive wage increases of 10.5% to 12.5%, as well as any scheduled paid step increases, which average 3.8%.

On another sticking point, healthcare, the county will allow union members to join a Teamsters Health and Welfare Plan, which they say will save families as much as $500 per month. St. Louis County says it will contribute up to the amount provided to employees through its own self-insured health plan. 

The Teamsters posted that the county agreed to fund a Health Savings Account and two more personal days. The agreement does not include changes to the sick leave accrual cap. 

"The total cost for this provision will not exceed what the county contributes for employees in its own plan, but provides additional flexibility for the union," a county press release said. 

"It's very humbling to see this power with a rank and file. It really is," said Erik Skoog, recording secretary for Teamsters 320.

"It wasn’t all just about money, a lot of people think that's all it is. That's not the case. It was a brotherhood, standing together to fight for what was right and a decent contract to work underneath was very important for all of us," said Mark Lindell, a senior operator for St. Louis County.

The Teamsters burst to cheers and claps when the announcement on the vote was made at around 5:30 p.m. Monday.

Emotions were high during the strike. The winter storm didn't make things easier for anyone on the roads or for the Teamsters.

"Standing outside in 20 below weather on the straight line was little bit tough but everybody held the line. We were out there and got our message across," said Lindell.

Both parties can now close this chapter and start fresh in working together to continue serving the county.

"We found a mutual common ground and we can continue building that professional relationship that we've had for many years," said Skoog.

"The members all feel good about it because nobody turned it down. Was it perfect? Nothing ever is, but it's something that we will work under and that's what we want. Believe it or not, we want to go back to work, and we will," said Lindell.

St. Louis County Administrator Kevin Gray said they are thankful to welcome the Teamsters employees back to work.

"Both sides worked very hard to get to this point. This has been a challenging time for all of us," Gray said in a press release. "We have always recognized the hard work and important contributions of these employees, and our focus now is to move forward again as a team." 

The union went on strike last Wednesday, forcing county supervisors to clear thousands of miles of county roads after Friday evening's storm.

Administrator Gray thanked supervisors for stepping in to work after the storm and gave a special note of gratitude to Commissioner Jan Johnson of the Bureau of Mediation Services, who facilitated meetings and worked with both sides. 

The St. Louis County Board is expected to sign off by the end of February. 

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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