A union representing social service and clerical workers reached a tentative agreement with Hennepin County on Thursday, heading off a possible strike of some 3,500 workers.

Represented by two bargaining units of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the workers filed their intent to strike last week. The union negotiated to "abolish" debt that employees have to pay back to the county for taking extra time off in 2020 and 2021 for being furloughed, contracting COVID-19 or having to stay home with their children when schools switched to virtual learning, AFSCME Local 2822 President Allie Fuhrman said.

"We wouldn't have gotten this win without rejecting and building for a strike," she said Thursday evening. "We're pleased with the deal, and we're pleased with the fight our members built."

Union members will start voting on the proposal Wednesday. AFSCME Local 34 and Local 2822 are recommending that members approve it.

Pay increases and bonuses are in line with Hennepin County's previous "Last Best and Final Offer."

Workers will have annual salary increases of 2.5% each year for three years. They can also receive an additional 3% wage increase if they receive a satisfactory review and are not at the top of their pay scale, according to Fuhrman.

Most workers will also receive $500 in "pandemic recognition" pay, increased paid parental leave from three to six weeks and increased flexibility for funeral leave, according to a news release from Local 2822.

The state's Bureau of Mediation Services brokered the settlement proposal, and the union's intent to strike has been withdrawn, according to a news release from Hennepin County.

"Hennepin County is thankful for the hard work and good faith demonstrated by employees on both sides of the bargaining table," according to the release. "We are hopeful that Local 34 and Local 2822 will ratify this recommended Mediated Settlement Proposal."