Some City of Duluth Plow Drivers Refuse to Work Overtime For Saturday Storm as Union Members Prepare to Vote on Contract Agreement

On Saturday city officials said snowplows would be out for this storm through the city, but the fleet would be operating fewer than normal.

DULUTH, Minn.- Some plow drivers refused to come in to work overtime for this weekend’s winter storm as the City of Duluth says their contract requires them to do. While the reasoning is unclear at this time, this comes as a tentative contract agreement was reached in the 11th hour between union workers and the city administration.

On Saturday city officials said snowplows would be out for this storm through the city, but the fleet would be operating fewer than normal.

Duluth’s Chief Administration Officer Noah Schuchman released a statement to FOX 21 which reads in part:

“Given the evolving nature of the storm, the City is doing everything in our ability to ensure that plow operators come in as required under the provisions in the current contract. The City will have plowing operations out in the city in response to this snow event. This will consist of our normal street maintenance staff, guest plow operators from other departments as we do regularly for snow events, and we are committed to working to get as many out as possible. As of Thursday, March 3, 2022, the City reached a tentative agreement for a new contract for 2022-2024 with unanimous support from the AFSCME negotiating team, and we are grateful to have reached that agreement.”

Negotiations came to a head last week when hundreds of AFSCME Local 66 Union City workers gathered at the steps of city hall to demand a fair and equitable contract agreement.

According to the city and AFSCME, a tentative contract agreement was reached Thursday which the union will vote on, on March 15th.

Meanwhile, city officials said the union did not back these plow drivers’ decision to not report to work.

AFSCME Local 66 released this statement to FOX 21 which reads:

“There is no sanctioned strike by AFSCME Local 66 bargaining unit leadership or the duly-elected negotiations committee and we expect our members and the city to abide by our contract language. While we as city workers did not get everything we wanted in mediation, we are encouraged by the outpouring of support for our team who fought as hard as possible to get the most fair and equitable contract agreement up to the very last minute. We highly encourage our members to fully exercise their rights in the next step in the process by voting “yes” or “no” on the Tentative Agreement on March 15, 2022.”

A 9-year veteran union employee of the utilities department, who spoke independently and wished to remain nameless, also released a statement which he said was “on behalf of City of Duluth plow truck drivers, streets department workers, utility operations workers, and all other members that work hard for our community”:

“Many workers are on vacation, not available, and unable to work.  All employees that are scheduled and required to be working, are working.  Any additional staff may volunteer to work outside of their regular workday when/if they become available because they are currently off duty.

Every worker that is off duty is fully following the current contract agreement between the City of Duluth and Local 66 of AFSCME Council 5 for basic union employees.

In these trying times with emergency situations, all agreed-upon stand-by/on-call staffing are doing their job.  All workers have families and it should be understood that they are with their families and fulfilling other obligations during their time off.  Any requests that are made for them to come into work during their time off is; just that, a request.  If they are unavailable that is because they are again, off duty.”

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