St. Louis County Teamsters say strike “absolutely” on the table

Published: Oct. 21, 2022 at 5:19 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN -- Teamsters Local 320 spent three minutes at a bargaining session with the county Friday before walking out.

The union is now requesting mediation.

President Erik Skoog said the offer wasn’t what they were hoping to see.

“They came up just very minimally on their wage proposal, after us making some significant changes in ours. We just walked away from the table, and we said enough is enough. We’re tired of this and tired of these results,” Skoog said.

The contract is set to expire on December 31st.

According to Skoog, the county has offered them a 2.75% general wage increase each of the next three years.

While he didn’t share what their counter was, he says the two sides aren’t close.

“It’s far below what our proposals are, what the market is showing,” he said. “It’s not even in the same climate that we need to be in,” he said.

Along with better wages, they’re hoping for better workplace safety including a higher budget for high-visibility outerwear and money for weights on trucks to avoid overturns.

Skoog and the union have already gone through five bargaining sessions so far, but after Friday’s short session, they decided to pursue a mediator.

“We’ve laid it we’ve laid our cards on the table, and [the county] continues to drag their feet,” Skoog said.

If the problem doesn’t solve itself soon, Skoog says a strike is on the table once the contracts expire.

“Without a question, [we could see a strike]... If the county doesn’t pull its head out of its butt, there will be another work stoppage in January. That’s a fact,” said Skoog.

The Teamsters union is the same one that went on strike in January 2020.

County plow drivers walked off the job for six days before finally reaching a deal.

“We know where the line is, and we are at that line. The employer has a tough decision to make, and that’s whether they want to take on the Teamsters again, or do they want to treat their workers with respect and pay them what they’re deserved,” he said.

In the coming week, Skoog expects a mediator to be assigned and negotiating dates to be offered up.

St. Louis County reps issued the following statement regarding Friday’s negotiations.

“St. Louis County can confirm that the Teamsters Local 320 bargaining unit, which represents employees in the Public Works Highway Maintenance Division, has filed for mediation through the Bureau of Mediation Services. The county remains fully committed to negotiations, and in this case, mediation, to achieve a settlement that is fair and equitable to both our employees and to the residents and businesses we serve. We respect the bargaining process and will continue to negotiate in good faith with all of our collective bargaining units.”