Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Aug. 28, 2000

McLeod clerical workers go on strike

By Gail Lipe

Approximately 65 members of the McLeod County Teamsters Local 320 clerical and technical union voted overwhelmingly to strike at approximately 6:30 p.m. on Monday. Picketers surrounded the McLeod County Courthouse by 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday.

The vote came after the membership considered a proposal offered by the Bureau of Mediation Services mediator Wayne High. The mediation session began at noon on Monday and lasted until close to 5 p.m.

"All the information and feedback we got from the union representatives at the table were positive towards the membership accepting the proposal," said Nan Crary, McLeod County administrator.

Sue Mauren, the principal officer of Local 320, said the movement was very minor on the part of McLeod County. "It was not sufficient for this group," she said.

The intent to strike was filed earlier this month because the second offer from McLeod County was not satisfactory to the union members. The offer included salary schedule increase of 2 percent in 2000, 2.75 percent in 2001 and 2.75 percent in 2002. In addition, over the three year contract period two new steps were added at the top of the salary schedule, each at 3 percent above the current top salary rate, and two steps at the start of the salary schedule were eliminated.

High said the difference between the two groups is money. He said he felt the union does not feel it is being offered enough.

The mediation proposal package was similar to the last proposal from the county. High said the increase was in a stipend for professional growth.

Mauren said the increases on the new proposal were not sufficient because there are some full-time employees in the union that qualify for assistance. She also said some of them make less money working full-time than the McLeod County Commissioners make part-time.

A flyer handed out by the members in the picket line states that McLeod County employees earn approximately $3 an hour less than their counterparts in neighboring communities.

It also states the commissioners gave themselves an almost 6 percent wage increase plus increases in the per diem amount in 2000 while the employees are being offered a 2 percent increase, which is below the cost of living increases.

Crary said the administrators will be making every effort to continue services to the public, especially the priority services. She said they will be operating with minimum staff and will redirect people to other places that they can receive the non-priority services if it becomes necessary.

Mauren said the union made the decision not to jepordize the health and safety of the community. She said health aids who work with vulnerable adults will continue to work during the strike.

In preparation for the strike, employees had to turn in their keys and the outside entrance locks were changed on county buildings. Stop signs also were installed at the entrances and exits of all parking areas for the safety of the picketers.

Mediation will continue through High at the Bureau of Mediation Services. In the meantime, clerical and technical employees of McLeod County will be picketing around the county buildings.

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