MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As the snow started to fall Wednesday morning in Minnesota’s largest county, some union plow drivers hit the picket lines.
By the end of the day Saturday, Duluth and other parts of St. Louis County could see up to 9 inches of new snowfall. The snow will still be plowed, but it might take a little longer.
About 170 county public works employees walked off the job after their union rejected the county’s offer Saturday. Plow operator Dan Foshay was on the picket line Wednesday with his fellow Teamsters.
“We want to be out there and make the roads safe, but there’s a point where we got to stand up for what we believe in. We just want to be equal,” Plow operator Dan Foshay said. “With the real estate they got to cover with being under manpower, it’s not looking pretty.”
County supervisors and trained workers from other departments operated the plows Wednesday, and they will continue until the two sides reach an agreement.
“We never wanted it to come to this, but the reality is we have given them our last, best, final offer,” St. Louis County Community Manager Dana Kazel said. “It’s going to be a slower, slower response time, simply because it will be a smaller staff.”
The two sides were close to striking a deal Friday, but they are still at odds over sick leave, accruals and payouts — forcing the first union strike in the county.
“All of us are sacrificing a lot, and we know that we ain’t gonna have a paycheck, and we still have bills coming in. But we’re taking that stand to show the public and show the county that we are something,” Plow operator Cory Garden said. “We can all go back to work, and that’s what we want. We want to go back and serve the public.”
But both sides tell WCCO they are prepared to wait this out for as long as it takes.
There are more than 3,000 miles of roadway in the county.