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Public works employees, including plow drivers, authorize strike in St. Louis County

The strike would include around 180 employees.

Plow drivers are among nearly 200 public works employees in St. Louis County threatening a work stoppage if healthcare increases aren't provided in the very near future. 

St. Louis County Teamsters (Local 320) voted Sunday 112-1 in favor to authorize a strike after the current labor contract expires Dec. 31. In a release, Teamsters Local 320 said around 180 county workers will strike at a to-be-determined time and date if the county's healthcare benefits aren't enhanced. 

The majority of the employees ready to strike work as plow operators, mechanics, bridge workers, parts specialists, sign technicians and building maintenance. The release explains Teamsters demands: 

"The strike vote is the result of St. Louis County’s healthcare inequality for employees of the Public Works Department who are provided less coverage and forced to pay 31 percent more than management and non-union employees. Furthermore, Teamsters are demanding a restoration of their seniority rights formerly rescinded through arbitration. An increase in the cost of living is also a major concern for Teamsters."

Erik Skoog, the lead negotiator for the group, says St. Louis County has been "combative" and ignored their requests. 

If further negotiations don't lead to a deal, the strike could be in place when a winter storm hits. In such a scenario, county plow operators would not be clearing roads. 

That said, a county spokesperson tells the Star Tribune that there is optimism about an agreement being made before a work stoppage ensues. 

St. Louis County is Minnesota's largest county by area.

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