Probation officers approve strike in Washington County over Juneteenth federal holiday

Washington County probation officers have voted 39-1 to approve a strike over receiving Juneteenth as a paid federal holiday.

Teamsters Local 320, which represents the voting union members, can now file an intent to strike notice with the Bureau of Mediation Services. The act would then initiate a 10-day "cooling off" period before a worker strike could officially begin.

"This action is 100% the county's doing. We have attempted to secure Juneteenth as a paid holiday. The County is trying to force us to "trade" something [such as Christmas Eve] in order to get Juneteenth. The Teamsters do not believe a day of such significance should need to be traded to receive," said Joshua Loahr, Teamsters Local 320 chief negotiator, in a statement following the vote. "Teamsters local 320 does not believe that a day that celebrates the end of slavery in our country should need to be traded for."

While saying the county, "values the important work that probation officers do," a statement said its negotiators were, "disappointed the union voted to reject a very competitive wage and benefit proposal for 2024 and 2025."

According to Angie Nalezny, the county’s director of human resources, "the county continues to offer the same package of paid holidays that was accepted by more than 80 percent of employees in 2022."

However, Teamsters 320 representatives say a sticking point remains the use of a "floating holiday" – which can be approved or denied at the discretion of supervisors.

"What they don't say is that they control who can use the floating holiday and when, so technically they can deny the use of it on a particular day," Loahr said.

June 19, which commemorates the end of slavery, became a federal holiday in 2021. Last year, Minnesota became the 26th state to recognize Juneteenth – but it's not a paid holiday for all government workers, including Washington County probation officers.

Probation officers are tasked with following up with offenders who have been released to ensure they're following the conditions of their sentences. However, some probation officers say that they don't feel included or equal to those in other jurisdictions, like nearby Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

The union will look to file its intent to strike sometime in the next "week or two if no progress is made," in negotiations with the county, Loahr told FOX 9.

Juneteenth is the 11th federal holiday, and the first to receive legal observance since Martin Luther King Jr. Day was designated 40 years ago.