By Pat Kessler, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Rough roads have caused headaches for Minnesota drivers since last Saturday night, in what’s been called one of the worst ice storms in the last 20 years.

The State Patrol reported more than 400 accidents and several injuries — and that was just on major roads and highways.

The transportation department said Mother Nature threw a curveball last weekend and it was not able to react as quickly as it wanted.

But AFSCME, the union representing the state’s snow plow operators, said MnDOT didn’t call them soon enough so it could save money.

Minnesota’s snow plow operators say they were ready to go on Saturday night, but they didn’t get the call to work until it was too late to do any good.

“I don’t think this was a secret to anyone this was coming,” said Bart Andersen, a union leader for the drivers — and a former snow plow operator himself.

He said the calls for help went out late — so the state could save money.

“But they had indicated that they were going to be monitoring the amount of overtime,” Andersen said.

The Saturday night scare saw hundreds of icy crashes, countless slip-sliding drivers who first lost control, then patience.

At MnDOT’s metro headquarters Wednesday, the man in charge said the ice storm came sooner than expected, that’s all. And charges of budget cutting? No way, no how, he said.

“We’ll spend any resources, any money that it would take to make sure the roadways are safe for the driving public,” said Mark Fischbach, of MnDOT.

Meterologists predicted the rain would turn to ice Saturday night, but MnDOT said de-icing chemicals are ineffecitve when wet roads freeze.

Union leaders say because MnDOT waited too long, the drivers who were called got stuck themselves.

“Some of our folks weren’t able to even get into the truck station,” Andersen said. “Some of our drivers weren’t able to even get out of their driveways.”

MnDOT said 13 snowplows got into crashes last weekend, marking the most ever.

With this latest storm, however, it’s all hands on deck.

MnDOT said they have every available snowplow crew on duty starting at 3 a.m. this morning.

Pat Kessler

Comments (17)
  1. Mark from MNtaxwaste says:

    You have to love those Unions, just look at how much they helped Detroit, and the FORD Plant in St. Paul. I wonder if anyone of the AFSCME members called a manager or just waited for the call to get out and clean the roads.

    1. Big Carl says:

      Mark – Next time please leave your address so the boys know where to dump the snow…..

      1. Mark from MNtaxwaste says:

        Sorry, did I offend you and the Unions? Thank you, my work is done for the day.

    2. St Paul says:

      Please!! It costs more in pay to put them out at night than it is putting them out before the storm hit during the daytime hours. The decision when to put the trucks out is the MN DOT area not the union. Why all this anti-union BS???

    3. CLA says:

      Mark why don’t you give your boss a call and tell him how to do his job. See how that works out for you.

      1. Mark from MNtaxwaste says:

        I do all the time, its called getting the job done, not sitting by the side line and waiting

  2. Joe Peters says:

    Thanks Govenor Pawlenty for making safe roads another one of your COUGH, priorities. I’m sure everyone that was involved in an accident will appreciate the tax savings that must total at least what, $5 per Minnesotan you were able to save each of us. I’m going to start a business with my $5 and hire a couple of hundred employees.

    1. Mark from MNtaxwaste says:

      You can thank the Democrats in the Legislature for that savings

  3. mark r says:

    the plow drivers are typical union bums (and thugs) never happy, never accountable and my god never cooperative

  4. nomorebs says:

    Time to get rid of the Unions. What a bunch of jokers! Get a real job, besides ripping off MN tax payers!

  5. The downfall of the American Auto Makers wasn’t the Big Wigs…. they are far outweighed by the OVER PAID Union employees. My Dad worked for Ford making $20.00+ / Hour 12 years ago to put 4 lug nuts on a pick-up all day… Seriously over paid. My Father in-law lost his job at Nwa AS A UNION PLANE CLEANER WHO MADE $19.00 / HOUR TO VACUUM A PLANE, AGAIN overpaid. Let’s be realistic, Union and better yet Sate Employee Union Jobs are paid way out of whack over what the Private sector would pay for a comparable job. Let’s not forget the HUGE pension that we, as tax payers are responsible for along with the medical, dental, paid holidays, etc…. Cut the pay in half, kill the unions. There is no need for unions anymore as work places are safe with OSHA, labor laws are enforced by the NLB. The unions are self serving entities that feed off of the dim whitted union hourly schmuck employees who give up 2 hours of pay each month to support the Union Presidents, offices, and National offices. Smarter Union workers who convinced their peers to pay them to represent them while they get “off the line” and in the face of the man! Unions Suck! Unions are to blame for every unemployed Auto Worker or person who supported the auto industry. These workers who all were making an average of $60k a year + Benefits are now without a job, living off of our tax dollars on Unemployment.

    1. Mark from MNtaxwaste says:

      well said sir

  6. TJ says:

    Amen acomplicatedman, couldnt have said it better myself. Union NO!

  7. TJ says:

    Unions had there time and place and helped make this country what it is. Then they got greedy, end of story.

    1. CLA says:

      How long before the unions are gone before companies start taking advantage of there workers again? Unions are about protecting workers rights, companies are about making money. Do you really believe companies are going to do the right thing if it costs them money to do it?

  8. Upset says:

    It really saddens me that so many of you are sooo anti union and public employees. I am a public employee and I DO NOT make 60k a year I don’t even make 25k a year and struggle day in and day out to provide for my 3 young children. I work hard for what little bit I have. You should really do some fact checking before bashing all union and public employees and what it takes for us to make Minnesota safer. We pay taxes just like the rest of you and I am proud that my tax dollars fund taking care of the most vulnerable adults, children, and veterans in Minnesota!!!