Plow driver strike continues, but mediation set between Teamsters, St. Louis County

Updated: January 18, 2020 06:31 PM

As St. Louis County's plow drivers strike and backup workers dig out of heavy snow, the county and Teamsters representatives are planning to resume negotiations for a new contract.

Mediation is set for Sunday between St. Louis County and Teamsters Local 320, the union representing employees in the county's public works department, including snowplow drivers, according to ABC affiliate station WDIO in Duluth.


In the meantime, the county has called on supervisors and licensed staff to man the plows, but Teamsters members say those workers don't replace the fleet of nearly 170 plow operators that usually clears the roads.

Regardless, St. Louis County spokeswoman Dana Kazel says the backup drivers are enough to plow priority roadways.

"Within each of the maintenance districts we prioritize the roads," Kazel said. "So plowing is happening countywide."

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But residents who live on private driveways or have road associations with the county are worried about getting around. St. Louis County said in a letter that it wouldn't be able to plow for those groups during the strike.

"You're going to need to make alternate arrangements, so it's unfortunate, but that's the reality," Kazel said. "We have to focus on the public roads."

Neighbors and volunteers with plowing equipment have been stepping up to fill that gap, according to Mitch Lacorsiere, who has a road association with the county. But that might not be enough if the strike lasts much longer, he said.

"If this drags on for a long amount of time and we start getting continual snowstorms, we don't have the big equipment to push these banks back like the big equipment the county has, so hopefully this strike doesn't last too long," Lacorsiere said.

The county's plow drivers began striking on Wednesday at the conclusion of a two-week cooling-off period that began when the union workers' contract expired Dec. 31. St. Louis County officials presented the Teamsters with their final best offer last weekend, which union members overwhelmingly rejected 117-8 on Jan. 11.

Sick leave accumulation has been the main sticking point during the negotiations. The union is asking for a maximum payout of 1,500 hours of sick leave for senior employees, but the county said it could only afford a cap of 1,350 hours, claiming fulfilling the Teamsters' demand would cost taxpayers $18.5 million.

Union members are also seeking higher wages and the freedom to shop for alternative health insurance plans.

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Kyle Brown

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