Minnesota State Fair terminates police officers, push for union vote happening

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The Minnesota State Fair notified 37 police officers they were to be terminated as of Jan. 31, and one of those officers told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the State Fair had hired other law enforcement agencies to cover patrol shifts.

Officer Paul Smith told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS he is among the group of officers who were told they were terminated and would have to reapply for their jobs. 

Smith also said replacements for those officers covered last weekend's shifts.

"I was told not report, and every other officer I know was told the same thing," said Smith. "It is a kick in the gut to be treated this way, and I know several officers have filed age discrimination complaints."

Minnesota State Fair, police chief face age discrimination complaints after 37 officers terminated

Smith said there were at least 16 officers in the terminated group who are "over the age of 50" and said a new college degree requirement would keep them off the job in all likelihood.

"They became officers before a degree was required and were grandfathered in," said Smith. "So, now, without a college degree, how can they get their jobs back, and I know that's why some have filed complaints."

Four officers told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they filed complaints within the Fair's Human Resources Department, and one of those officers said they filed age discrimination complaints with the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

Smith said he filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board because he said he was instrumental in pursuing a union affiliation with Minnesota Teamsters Local 320 and was allegedly retaliated against by fair management.

"And, even now, we are expected to take a vote on this soon, and I have not been told I could come back to my job," said Smith.

The Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services, last week, issued a "status quo" order and told the Fair to keep "existing conditions of employment of the employees unchanged as of Jan. 29."

Minnesota Teamster Local 320 Principal Officer Brian Aldes was unavailable for an interview, and a spokesperson said the union is considering "legal action" against the Fair and its management.

In a statement, Aldes said, "These officers are pursuing membership in a union because they deserve the rights that other police officers across the state have: the right to be treated equitably and the right to just cause in matters of discipline." 

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS repeatedly asked State Fair leaders for an interview and comment, but no one has responded to those requests.

The head of the Fair's Board of Directors declined to comment citing "legal reasons" for his decision.