The Potluck

St. Louis County snowplow drivers authorize a strike, reject final offer

By: - December 20, 2022 9:43 am

Photo courtesy of St. Louis County.

More than 160 snowplow drivers and other maintenance workers for St. Louis County authorized a strike on Monday after voting to reject the county’s final offer on wages and benefits.

The workers, who are unionized with the Teamsters Local 320, can’t strike before their contract with the county expires at the end of December and they must give 10 days notice for a cooling off period. A strike in the depths of winter could hamstring Minnesota’s largest county and one of its snowiest, stretching from Duluth to the Canadian border.

“The ball is now in the county’s court,” Erik Skoog, Teamsters Local 320 president, said in a statement.

The two sides have been negotiating a new three-year contract since July and reached an impasse earlier this month after working with a mediator.

St. Louis County spokeswoman Dana Kazel said the county was “disappointed and discouraged” by the union’s vote and said they expect the state Bureau of Mediation Services to reach out to both sides regarding next steps.

County leaders offered workers a “last, best and final” earlier this month, which they increased slightly over the weekend ahead of a vote by union members to accept or reject the deal.

The county offered workers 3% general wage increases each year with newer employees getting additional 3.88% raises each year as they gain seniority. Veteran employees would receive more moderate increases in addition to the annual wage increases. Heavy equipment operators, which include snowplow drivers, start at $23.07 an hour and earn up to $32.48 an hour after 22 years of service, under the current contract.

The county also offered workers a $400 lump sum payment if they ratified the contract before the end of the year, $150 for winter and safety wear and $200 for footwear.

The Teamsters Local 320 is asking for an additional 1% wage increase above what the county offered as well as $500 per year for protective gear and high visibility outerwear and $200 per year for footwear.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.