Members of a construction union at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport voted Wednesday to authorize a strike in late January unless a deal is reached before then.
The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 (IUOE), which represents about 20 full-time members at MSP, approved a strike in a "near unanimous" vote, according to communications director Erin Lang.
This is the second union at the airport in recent weeks to authorize a strike in January, just as the winter travel season at MSP begins to ramp up.
The IUOE represents field maintenance operators, mechanics and parts-room technicians who work for the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC), which owns and operates MSP. The current contract expired Dec. 31, but talks since then have not resulted in an agreement.
A sticking point for the union is the MAC's refusal "to offer our members any type of a compensation increase," Lang said in an e-mail.
With this week's vote, the earliest the union could strike is Jan. 25, but a walkout would not occur if the two sides reach a deal. The union and MAC representatives will meet again on Jan. 11 in negotiations with a mediator.
In a news release, the union said members "were team players and accepted a pay freeze for a year" as the COVID-19 pandemic decimated air travel.
"As the economy recovers, air travel has increased and the federal government has bailed out the airports, [but] management is unwilling to step up and give these frontline workers the respect of a decent pay increase they deserve," the union said. "Management had no issue bailing out businesses at the airport, yet they refused to offer workers a respectable increase."
Airport spokesman Patrick Hogan said the MAC "continues to negotiate in good faith" with the union, "and we are confident we can reach an agreement."
The MAC disputes the union's claim that members' pay was frozen early in the pandemic — "the fact is that members received a 3 percent pay increase," Hogan said.
Earlier this month, about 85 members of Teamsters Local 320 also authorized a strike at MSP and six reliever airports in the metro in a dispute over compensation and severance pay.
The earliest the Teamsters could strike is Jan. 20, but talks with the MAC are planned for next week. The members plow snow on runways and maintain streets and walkways.