Feb 22, 2024 - News

Thousands of Minnesota union members make plans for simultaneous early March strikes

A man with light skin wearing sunglasses holds a colorful sign reading "What Could We Win Together?" as other people wearing bright-colored clothing stand in front of a stone wall for a press conference.

Leaders of multiple labor unions and allied organizations held a press conference at St. Paul City Hall to announce plans to simultaneously strike during the first week of March. Photo: Kyle Stokes/Axios

At least four Minnesota labor unions are making plans to potentially go on strike all at once during the first week of March unless their demands are met.

Why it matters: Simultaneous strikes by thousands of essential workers — including janitors, security guards, nursing home workers, and Minneapolis public works employees — could cause disruptions across the Twin Cities and would also reflect the growing clout of Minnesota unions.

Between the lines: "It's very unusual for workers across unions … to engage in concerted labor actions," said labor economist Aaron Sojourner, who noted that coordinating the expiration dates of each union's contract would take years of planning.

Driving the news: Five unions, including St. Paul Public Schools teachers, have already voted to authorize possible strikes. Together, these unions represent more than 13,000 workers.

  • By week's end, that number could grow to nearly 15,000 as additional nursing home employees take their own strike authorization votes.
  • The number of nursing homes where workers have authorized 24-hour strikes has already grown from seven to 12 in recent days, leaders of their unions said at a Thursday press conference.

What they're saying: The unions are still in negotiations with their respective employers, and "We hope that those who make decisions in our community will come to the table with fair settlements," said Greg Nammacher, president of SEIU Local 26, which represents nearly 8,000 janitors and security guards.

  • Each union has different demands, ranging from pay increases and stronger benefits packages to new on-the-job safety standards.

What we're watching: Whether St. Paul teachers will be among the strikers. Union president Leah VanDassor — who spoke at the Thursday press conference of labor leaders and allies — said the teachers are not yet able to legally set a strike date.

  • Once the union has been in mediation for 30 days, it can set a strike date with at least ten days' notice. That deadline is coming up "soon," VanDassor said, declining to be more specific.

The big picture: "Labor has more bargaining power than in decades," said Sojourner, of the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. The economy is strong, productivity is high, and workers are scarce — all of which emboldens unions to make ambitious asks, he added.

What's next: Multiple unions have set a March 2 deadline to have their demands met.


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