A coalition of unions representing St. Paul snowplow drivers, water workers and other city workers on Tuesday rejected an offer from the city for a two-year contract, setting the stage for a possible strike.
Labor members Local 363, Teamsters 120 and Operating Engineer 49 – approximately 280 employees of St. Paul’s Public Works, Parks and Recreation, Sewer and Water Services, authorized strike action, which would not require a later vote to begin . If unions file an intention to strike with the Bureau of Arbitration Services, state law requires a 10-day cooling-off period.
Workers interviewed outside Union Hall in St. Anthony, where the vote took place, said the city had not offered a pay increase for the first year of the contract, followed by a 1.5 percent increase in the second year.
Chester Ann, Public Works Road Maintenance, ready to move. Started on 30 May 1994. “It is under the cost of living. We were the highest paid municipality when I started. we should be. We are the capital city. We are one of the lowest paid in the metro area.” pic.twitter.com/LUzTiCV85V
— Frederick Melo, reporter (@FrederickMelo) 5 October 2021
Spokesmen for the unions did not immediately disclose vote totals or confirm the details of the city’s proposal. He said contract negotiations have led to three arbitration sessions in the past year, and unions will have to consider next steps. He noted that during the pandemic, workers took on frontline roles in isolating homeless camps and performing essential services.
“To avert a strike, we did everything we could,” said Troy Gustafson, business agent for Teamsters Local 120. “They came back with a proposal that is to say the least.”
City officials said the primary point of discussion has been wages, and the offer made to unions is in line with the offer made to seven other bargaining units, which have already settled their contracts.
“Our city workers demonstrate their dedication to our residents and businesses every day,” Peter Leggett, director of St. Paul’s Communications, said in an email Tuesday evening. “We are grateful for their service and hope that our ongoing discussions lead to a positive solution.”