Teamsters Local 320 Members Discuss Upcoming Plow Operator Strike

Union members say it was a tough decision to strike, but won't return to the table until their 'top priorities' are addressed

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Minn. – St. Louis County plow drivers are going on strike Wednesday, the same day measurable snowfall is expected to fall, and just before a winter storm arrives Friday that could dump more than six inches of snow.

“I hope we get a ton of snow and I hope the employer, the county, thinks about that and brings all of us back to the table and start talking about how we’re going to go back to work,” said Brian Aldes, Secretary and Treasurer of the Teamsters Local 320.

The county-wide work stoppage is expected to impact about 170 public works employees who are represented by the Teamsters Union.

“The St. Louis County Teamsters had a very difficult time making this decision because their top priority is providing safe roads and bridges for the public to travel on,” said Aldes.

The Teamsters voted overwhelmingly to reject the county’s final contract offer Saturday. That offer included pay raises for the workers, but didn’t address what the union calls their “top priorities.”

“We’re not going back to the table until the employer is willing to talk about sick leave accrual, sick leave accrual maximum, better severance payouts so they can afford to pay for their retiree medical, and they’re prepared to talk about healthcare,” said Aldes.

St. Louis County officials tell us they will rely on supervisors and other county staff members to plow roads during the strike. But the Teamsters say it won’t be the same.

“That’s a joke. You can’t replace 171 people behind the wheel of a snow plow,” said Aldes.

Meanwhile, restaurants and stores along county highways tell us they’re not looking forward to a plow operator work stoppage.

“I’m a little concerned about the strike. Of course it will affect our business a little bit,” said Kate Waggoner, co-owner of the Breeze Inn on Jean Duluth Road, which is County Highway 37.

Waggoner says snow removal is especially important in rural areas where people have to drive long distances every day.

“It’s not only losing business for a couple days but it’s our employees losing hours because they can’t get to work and people losing their paychecks. Not only people from here but people in the whole county,” said Waggoner.

The Teamsters do more than just plow roads for St. Louis County. They install culverts, repair gravel roads, and operate heavy machinery year-round.

“When there are emergencies, we are called into action. That’s snow, that’s in the spring, summer and fall,” said Cory Garden, a senior equipment operator for St. Louis County and a member of Teamsters Local 320.

The Teamsters are expected to picket outside public works buildings county-wide starting Wednesday.

St. Louis County spokesperson also confirmed to Fox 21 that the county has hired a private security firm to watch over the maintenance garages during the strike. The cost of that will depend on how long the security guards are working for the county.

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