Saint Paul, MN — Yesterday, public employees in the parks, water and public works departments of the City of Saint Paul unanimously voted to authorize a strike. The bargaining unit is represented by the Saint Paul Tri-Council, consisting of LIUNA Local 363, Operating Engineers Local 49 and Teamsters 120. The Tri-Council will send an official strike notice today and could walk off the job as early as March 20.
AJ Lange, Business Manager of LIUNA Local 363 said, “Over the past two years our members worked on the frontline, putting their lives at risk to provide the essential services that the City and residents rely on. In the face of unprecedented challenges and dangerous working conditions, Tri-Council workers showed up everyday to serve their communities with pride and commitment. At the same time, we have seen historic levels of inflation and our members deserve the dignity of a raise that maintains their standard of living so they can provide for their families. Working people have budgets too and we are just trying to make ends meet.”
In 2021 and 2022, inflation has consistently been above seven percent, yet Tri-Council members only received one and two and a half percent percent wage increases, respectively. While public employment used to be regarded for its strong benefits and reliable wages, there is a workforce shortage in the public sector as well.
Lange added, “Employers in the private and public sector have responded accordingly raising wages and benefits to get people through the door. However, the City of Saint Paul is just not as competitive when you compare similar job titles to neighboring metro area employers. This has led to low recruitment and retention, forcing departments to operate short staffed across the City. Our members are then left to pick up the slack by taking on increased work loads, longer hours, and more stressful and demanding assignments. This is unsafe, unfair, and frankly unsustainable. We are going to continue pushing the City to step up.”
In addition to negotiating wage increases, the Tri-Council wants a policy on workplace violence prevention, as well as to safeguard civil service rules. Contract negotiations have been ongoing since September 2022.