Minneapolis park workers announce Fourth of July picket

Just as the City of Minneapolis is getting ready for its first Fourth of July fireworks show in five years, the union representing more than 300 park maintenance workers could walk off the job. 

Minneapolis park workers announced a week-long strike on Tuesday, set to start on the Fourth of July.

The LIUNA Local 363 union, which represents Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) workers, filed a 10-day strike notice in June, and Tuesday is the first day they could hit the picket lines.

Workers say they are pushing for a pay increase, better healthcare, and safety.

"Despite our best efforts to negotiate in good faith, the Park Board has failed to offer a fair deal addressing worker safety, competitive wages, and affordable healthcare," said AJ Lange the business manager of LIUNA Local 363. "Our members, who take immense pride in maintaining the nation's top-ranked park system, are forced to withdraw their labor to fight for fair treatment."

The potential strike comes just as the city is gearing up to bring back its Red, White and Boom celebration, including the fireworks display for the first time in five years. The union said the Fourth of July is one of the busiest times for the parks and that the decision to launch the strike on Independence Day "wasn't made lightly." 

"We understand the inconvenience to the community, but we cannot accept unfair treatment that undermines the dignity of our work and the quality of our parks," Lange added in a statement.

According to the union, MPRB workers help maintain the city's parks, athletic fields, recreational facilities, and golf courses. In June, the union members voted to authorize a strike with 94% saying they were in favor. The union urged MPRB to come back to the negotiation table and that the "power to avoid a strike is in their hands." 

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board said they've made their "last, best, and final offer":

"After more than seven months of good faith negotiations, including 15 hours of negotiations on Monday, July 1, the Minneapolis Park and Park Board (MPRB) extended a last, best and final offer to Local 363 leadership that is competitive, fair and equitable (final offer attached). The MPRB has asked Local 363 leadership to submit this offer to a vote by Local 363 membership. 

"In addition to contract language changes, the wage-related details of this offer include a 10.25% wage increase over three years plus two market adjustments for 13 positions. Due to previous wage scales and increases, this increase exceeds the total wage package of the City of Minneapolis’ 363 workers over the same three-year period.

"Current average salaries (prior to the three-year proposed 10.25% wage increase) and total compensation, including healthcare, pensions and other benefits for Local 363 positions include: Parkkeeper $61,000 ($92,362 total compensation including benefits); Arborist $65,000 ($97,008 total compensation); Horticulturist $67,000 ($99,331 total compensation); Crew Leader $81,000 ($115,592 total compensation); and Foreman $92,000 ($128,368 total compensation). Additionally, Local 363 members with 0-4 years of service receive 37 paid days off per year, and employees with 21+ years of service receive 51 paid days off per year. They are also entitled to paid leave as defined by their collective bargaining agreement."

The spokesperson also says the park board has contingency plans to minimize the impact of the strike on park visitors.