Union votes down deal in St. Louis County as plow driver strike deadline nears

A strike among plow drivers could begin as soon as Tuesday in St. Louis County as union members voted down the latest deal from the county on Saturday.

Public works employees, represented by the Teamsters Local 320, roundly rejected the latest offering on a 117 to 8 vote.

Union leaders say a group of employees and union reps worked for a total of 33 hours over the course of the past two months to try and reach a deal. However, representatives say the county's final offer came up short in their eyes.

County leaders say the major sticking point is sick leave accrual. Government leaders say their latest offer increased maximum accrual hours from 1,250 to 1,350 but say the union is seeking a maximum of 1,500 hours with payout upon retirement. The county estimates that would cost taxpayers alone an estimated $1.5 million with a much larger price tag if extended to other county workers.

However, union reps say sick and vacation accruals lag behind other counties, and St. Louis County worker Scott Olson adds that insurance benefits are also a problem.

“We voted to reject the County’s final offer because we will no longer tolerate having second class benefits,” said Olson in a statement. “We want equality with other county employees.”

St. Louis County leaders say backup plans are in place for a potential strike.

"We know that road conditions in a snow event are a major concern for our citizens, and this is something we take very seriously," wrote St. Louis County Administrator Kevin Gray.

The 10-day "cooling period" between the county and union ends on Monday night, and a strike could begin as soon as Tuesday morning.

The union says workers have not yet set a date and time for a strike.