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Teamsters Provide Notice of St. Louis Co. Plow Driver Strike

WDIO-TV
Updated: January 01, 2020 07:31 PM

The union representing about 168 St. Louis County plow operators has given ten-day notice of a potential strike.

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Erik Skoog, the Recording Secretary and Business Agent for Teamsters Local 320, posted a letter on his Facebook page just after midnight on New Year's Day.  The letter is addressed to the county and the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services.

"It was a difficult choice but one that we feel is necessary with the ongoing attitude of the county," said Skoog.

Skoog said they've done everything possible to work out a deal with the county but both parties didn't come to an agreement before their old contract expired New Year's Eve. The Teamsters said they haven't been in contact with the county since the strike vote.

"There's a handful of issues that are left open. One is benefit inequailities with others in the county, as well as some wage inequalities within their pay structure," said Skoog.

Healthcare alternatives and seniority rights are also among the Teamsters' concerns.

Now- a cooling off period begins. That's where the Bureau of Mediation Services will bring both parties back into mediation for a final session. If that fails, the workers could strike.

"During that time, we would hope that the county would make some adjustments to their proposals and be more willing to negotiate," said Skoog. "We're talking about people's livelihoods, we're talking about public safety."

St. Louis County Communications Manager Dana Kazel says the county has not formally received the notice because offices are closed for the federal holiday. Kazel says if there is a strike, there is a plan in place to make sure the roads will still be plowed. They said they'll have supervisors and other licensed staff do the plowing.

In a statement provided to WDIO, the county said:

"St. Louis County remains committed to the bargaining process, as we have been all along. The Teamsters left the mediation process more than two weeks ago without providing a counter offer for consideration and further discussion. Since then, we have made ourselves available for additional mediation sessions."

The county further said,

"Our intent has been and will continue to be to negotiate in good faith with the Teamsters and all our bargaining units, some of which have already agreed to contract terms for 2020-22. The 168 employees represented by the Teamsters are our valued employees and we recognize the tremendous service they provide to the citizens of St. Louis County."

Kazel said the county expects the earliest a strike could begin would be Tuesday, Jan. 14. She also said the start of the cooling period is Jan. 3 and goes through Jan. 13.

St. Louis County Public Works is responsible for 3,000 miles of roads, including some county-owned roads within city limits.

Related: Who Plows What? County Crews Handle Some Roads in City 

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

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