Union Plow Drivers Go On Strike; St. Louis County Responds
"We are taking this seriously. We expect them to take it seriously. We want to go back in and do a deal. Let's get this done," said Cory Garden.
ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Minn. – Dozens of union plow drivers posted up outside of more than ten public works locations hoping to get the attention of St. Louis County officials.
“It’s heartbreaking because we know the impact this is having on employees. It’s disappointing, we know it has impacts on the citizens,” said St. Louis County Communications Manager Dana Kazel.
Members of the Teamsters Local 320 Union activated the strike after rejecting the county’s final contract deal.
That offer included a base wage increase of 10.5% to 12.5% over three years and the option to elect out of the county’s self-insured health plan.
But the group says they need more.
“It’s not a hard decision for them to make,” said heavy equipment operator Connie Westlund. “We rely on the county board to come back to the table and work with us. We aren’t asking for much.”
County officials say what they are asking for is unrealistic.
The local union group has been asking for a better sick leave policy throughout their negotiations.
“They are choosing to picket over an issue that we have said in the beginning it was not negotiable,” said Kazel “It would be financially impossible to do. It would create a $1.5 million cost just for the teamsters.”
If the county were to accept this request, county leaders are worried that could persuade other bargaining units to want the same.
It could end up costing taxpayers more than $18 million.
“The ball is in the Teamsters court right now. We made our last best final offer,” said Kazel.
If the group accepts the offer, the strike can end and employees can get back to serving the citizens, but the union members say they just want equal opportunities.
As more snow begins to hit the Northland, they want nothing more than to get back to work.
“Our friends and family driving these roads. Let’s keep them safe. It’s just as important to us as it is to everyone else in St. Louis County,” said Westlund. “Let’s come to an agreement, let’s figure it out.”
St. Louis County says 35 replacement drivers will hit the roads while snow continues to fall.