DULUTH – After five days of picketing, and more than a foot of snow, the St. Louis County plow driver strike has ended.
Negotiators reached a compromise following 15 hours of mediated talks that stretched past 2 a.m. Monday. Teamsters Local 320 members unanimously approved the contract Monday evening.
“It was definitely a show of solidarity, and the members gained some equality in their contract,” Local 320 chief negotiator Erik Skoog said.
County Administrator Kevin Gray said the county will be glad to welcome employees back to work Tuesday.
“This has been a challenging time for all of us,” he said in a statement. “We have always recognized the hard work and important contributions of these employees, and our focus now is to move forward again as a team.”
The local represents more than 160 public works department employees, including plow drivers, mechanics, equipment operators and others.
The strike started Wednesday ahead of two snowstorms, the most recent dropping up to 10 inches this weekend.
The county, which is responsible for more than 3,000 miles of roads, sent supervisors and licensed drivers from other departments to plow.
Union members first voted to authorize a strike in December as contract talks broke down. The county gave its final offer after a daylong mediated bargaining session Jan. 10. Members rejected the offer the next day.
The contract agreement reached Monday includes wage increases, insurance flexibility and additional leave.
Gray said the agreement “serves our employees as well as our taxpayers.”
The county said there would be no increase to the sick leave accrual limit, which was a major point of contention during the strike. Skoog said the wage package was “very generous” and that adding two personal days and a health savings account were victories for members.
He also said he was “proud that not one Teamster crossed the picket line.”
A number of local political leaders came to the picket lines to support the strike, and several Democratic presidential candidates tweeted their support, including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar and former Vice President Joe Biden.
County commissioners still need to approve the agreement, which is likely by the end of February. The contract will be retroactive to Jan. 1.
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.