Washington County probation officers authorize strike

Unionized probation officers in Washington County have voted to authorize a work stoppage amid unsuccessful bargaining efforts.

Joshua Loahr, the recording secretary and chief negotiator for Teamsters Local 320, which represents the workers, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on Wednesday that the vote was 39-1 in favor of rejecting the county’s final offer and authorizing a strike.

According to the union, the county is refusing to recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

It wasn’t immediately clear when a strike could take place but, under state law, a 10-day cooling-off period is required after an intent to strike is filed, then the State Bureau of Mediation Services will call a new mediation session.

Washington County officials said they cannot comment on the negotiations with Teamsters, but released a statement that reads, in part:

“The county continues to offer Teamsters Local 320 the same package of paid holidays that was accepted by more than 80% of county employees in 2022, including the county‚Äôs three largest bargaining units. This package added Juneteenth as a new county paid holiday. The county declared Juneteenth an official county holiday in 2021, prior to the state law that made it a state holiday. The county package of paid holidays also includes adding a new floating holiday, which allows employees to take time off on a day that is important to them. The county has decided to keep county offices open on Christmas Eve, like the State of Minnesota, the Courts, and many private sectors service organizations, to better serve our customers and residents. The county continues to include Christmas Day as a paid holiday.”

Washington County Statement on Labor Relations

County officials added they have contingency plans in place to ensure that the critical duties carried out by probation officers will continue in the event of a strike. Those duties include the supervision of offenders on conditional release.