DULUTH -- The union representing St. Louis County plow drivers will begin striking Wednesday, Jan. 15, when snowfall is expected around the county.
The Teamsters Local 320 announced the work stoppage Tuesday afternoon and have the legal right to continue striking until Feb. 3. The union is prepared to strike until the demands of members are met, according to a news release from Teamsters.
The work stoppage will affect every Public Works Department location in the county, the news release stated, and ongoing pickets will take place at each of the locations, while mobile pickets will follow Public Works vehicles.
Teamsters previously said their aim was to strike when it snowed. The National Weather Service in Duluth has issued a winter weather advisory from midnight to 3 p.m. Wednesday that includes southern St. Louis County, which could see between 3 and 5 inches.
“This was a tough decision for the membership to make,” said Brian Aldes, Teamsters Local 320 secretary treasurer and principal officer. “However, the Teamsters employed by St. Louis County deserve parity of benefits with the civil service and merit employees.”
Teamsters said they would keep communication open with the state's Bureau of Mediation Services in the case that the county requests additional mediation, according to the news release.
Dana Kazel, spokesperson for the county, said they've been in frequent communication with the Bureau of Mediation Services but nothing has been scheduled.
"Our hope is to avert a strike," Kazel said. "Nobody wins in a strike situation, but we have given them our 'last best final offer.' It's called that for a reason and they rejected that. We're kind of at a stalemate."
During the work stoppage, the county will call on supervisors and other qualified staff to plow roads, leaving the county with a smaller than normal workforce to keep roads clear.
"It may take longer than usual, but we have the maps showing which roads we will be focusing of first and most frequently," Kazel said, referring to a page called "Strike Plans" on the county's website.
There are 15 Public Works locations in St. Louis County. The five major sites are in Ely, Virginia, Hibbing, Cook and Pike Lake.