DULUTH – Nearly 10 inches of snow blanketed parts of St. Louis County on Friday and Saturday as striking plow drivers remained on the picket line with no resolution in sight.
Teamsters Local 320 Secretary Treasurer Brian Aldes said the union is ready to go back to negotiating, but he had heard “nothing from St. Louis County.”
“Public safety is at risk, and it’s now past time for the county to call the union back into mediation,” Aldes said.
St. Louis County’s negotiating team had no comment “out of respect for the ongoing mediation process.”
The county is sending supervisors and licensed drivers to plow roads, with priority given to highways and high-traffic roads. Delays should be expected on more rural roads, according to the county’s strike plans.
St. Louis County spokeswoman Dana Kazel stressed that the county has not hired any outside workers to fill in. City and state plows will operate as normal, she said.
Teamsters Local 320 represents more than 160 plow drivers and other public works employees who have been on strike since Wednesday amid a contract dispute. The department is responsible for more than 3,000 miles of roads.
The union is holding firm on its demand to increase the amount of sick leave that can be paid out to newer employees when they retire.
In the far northern reaches of the St. Louis County, which is the geographically largest U.S. county east of the Mississippi River, it was expected that some roads won’t get cleared until the strike ends.
“I’m sure it’s going to affect business,” said Holly Henrikson, owner of the Rocky Ledge restaurant and bar on Lake Kabetogama, where more than 9 inches of snow fell. “The snow usually helps business.”
Snowfall ranged from 5 inches around Duluth to 8-plus inches farther north with more possible overnight into Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
On Friday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar tweeted her support for the Teamsters, saying: “These members work hard and deserve what they’ve earned.”
Politicians visiting the picket lines in recent days include St. Louis County Commissioners Mike Jugovich and Keith Musolf and local DFL state legislators Liz Olson and Erik Simonson. Republican U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber paid a visit to the picket line Friday as well.