DULUTH – More than 100 St. Louis County public works employees — including plow drivers — voted to authorize a strike this weekend after marathon contract talks hit a wall.
Though a date to start a work stoppage has not been set, the Teamsters Local 320 union said it intends to file the authorization notice with the state after the end of the month and will have 10 days from that filing until a strike can begin.
“We’ve got insurance costs that seem to be out of control and we’ve got some wage issues we have to deal with,” said Brian Aldes, secretary-treasurer of the Minneapolis-based local. “We’re going to continue to work hard and resolve our disputes and hopefully bring things to a close where there’s a mutual settlement.”
Last week the union’s negotiating committee walked out of mediation after 22 hours of talks over two days. St. Louis County Public Works Department employees voted 112-1 on Sunday to approve the strike.
The county is “optimistic that a positive outcome will be reached,” spokeswoman Dana Kazel said in a statement. “We respect the negotiations process and will continue to negotiate in good faith.”
If a strike does happen and a winter storm hits, Aldes said “the public isn’t going to get the service they need.”
He said there hasn’t been a wintertime work stoppage in his two decades with the local, though he said St. Louis County workers previously authorized a strike during a contract dispute several years ago.
“We filed intent to strike and worked hard during that 10-day cooling-off period and worked into the wee hours of the night, and that’s what we’re going to do this time,” Aldes said.
The current contract expires at the end of the month.
All work will continue for now.