AFSCME strike possible, but long way from occurring

Members of the AFSCME Minnesota Council 5 labor union met at the Stillwater Public Library Wednesday to discuss strike training.

The meeting was procedural, especially since the bargaining unit’s contract  expired in 2011 according to AFSCME Public Affairs spokeswoman Jennifer Munt. Munt added that a possible strike is far down the road.

“Workers decided at the meeting to push the employer for more negotiation dates,” Munt said. “After that, if the union chooses to seek the help of mediators they need to be in talks for 45 days before a strike can be called.”

Munt said that at this point, there is no tentative agreement and the union, which represents a group of city employees, is simply preparing for what could happen.

Stillwater City Administrator Larry Hansen, who manages AFSCME and other unions, said the union can request further negotiations.

“The city has eight unions. I manage six of them and there are four essential units that, if we can’t reach a contract, it moves to binding arbitration,” Hansen said. “We’re in that with one of the police units right now and I think that some of the unions have been waiting to see how that would turn out. Of course I’m willing to talk to anyone.”

Hansen added that in situations like this the sticking point is usually always wages and whether the situation moves to mediation depends on the unit itself.