A Teamsters union in Duluth mostly comprised of snow plow operators will likely go on strike this week after it voted Saturday to reject a final offer from St. Louis County.
Teamsters Local 320 represents nearly 180 employees in the St. Louis County Department of Public Works. Most of the workers are snow plow operators and mechanics.
The union filed its intent to strike with the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services on New Year’s Day, The Minnesota Sun reported. The process required the union and county to participate in a “cooling off” period before being called back for a final mediation session.
The county presented its final offer for a renewed labor contract during a 12-hour mediation session Friday, but the union voted 117-8 to reject the offer during a Saturday night meeting.
According to a press release from the union, St. Louis County has “failed to address issues concerning equity of sick and vacation leave accumulation between other county employees and the employees of the Public Works Department.”
“Other county employees have a higher accrual limit to the benefits,” said the union. “St. Louis County failed to allow its Public Works Department employees to shop for better, more affordable health insurance.”
Scott Olson, a 13-year equipment operator and member of the union, said he voted to reject the county’s offer “because we will no longer tolerate having second class benefits.”
“The county’s final offer may appear generous in the short term,” said Erik Skoog, Teamsters Local 320 business agent and chief negotiator. “But the offer would no longer cover the cost of dental care should the employees elect to switch to a more affordable health insurance plan.”
The union has not yet set a date and time for employees to engage in a work stoppage, but union members could go on strike as early as Tuesday.
“The County attempted to horse trade with its employees’ benefits,” said Brian Aldes, Teamsters Local 320 secretary treasurer and principal officer. “We cannot allow county employees to go backwards.”
St. Louis County is the largest county by area in the state and stretches from Duluth to the Canadian border. The county’s Public Works Department is responsible for plowing more than 3,000 miles of roads.
– – –