City of Duluth workers picket, demand fair contract deal – Reuters

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DULUTH — A group of 300 workers rallied on the steps of City Hall to protest ongoing contract negotiations between Local 66, part of the American Federation of State, County Employees Unions and Municipalities (AFSCME), and the City of Duluth on Saturday.

The group is demanding a more “fair and equitable” contract that treats city workers with “dignity” and “respect”.

Max Hall, AFSCME director of external relations and planning, said the safety of city workers and fair wage increases are among the concerns he wants the city to fully address.

Max Hall, Director of External Relations and Planning for AFSCME Council 5, walks while speaking into a microphone during a rally for workers at AFSCME Local 66 in the City of Duluth on the steps from Duluth City Hall on Saturday, February 26, 2022.

Dan Williamson/Duluth News Tribune

“City employees just shared stories about the essential services they provide to city residents and how they want the contract to reflect the hard work they do,” Hall said. “The general feeling from some of our members is that they are not always heard from the start. They raise these concerns, but they don’t always feel heard, so they want to make sure they feel respected within of the workforce by putting these issues are escalated and resolved immediately.”

Parks and recreation, street maintenance and facility maintenance workers stood among the protesters to offer appropriate compensation for pandemic-related budget cuts and layoffs. Hall said Local 66 was the only unit in Duluth to accept wage freezes and layoffs due to city budget shortfalls during the pandemic, which had a lasting impact on workers.

According to Hall, city workers have not felt recent contracts were fair enough for some time.

man holding a placard at a rally
A man holds a sign that reads “RAISE – NOT – PRAISE” during a rally for AFSCME Local 66-City of Duluth workers at Duluth City Hall on Saturday, February 26, 2022.

Dan Williamson/Duluth News Tribune

“We’re just trying to make sure that this next contract represents the tremendous value they’ve had throughout the pandemic. So they’ve just shared their stories of what they’re doing, so the people of the city can start piecing together what they do every day. Because a lot of what they do happens behind the scenes,” Hall said.

Hall said people forget those behind the hard work, like those on the ground during the slew of water main breaks Duluth has seen in the past two weeks.

The picket needed to maintain a conversation with the city while representing the voices of city workers, Hall added.

people standing on the steps of a rally
People stand on the steps of Duluth City Hall while holding up signs during a rally for AFSCME Local 66-City of Duluth workers on Saturday February 26, 2022.

Dan Williamson/Duluth News Tribune

City of Duluth officials released a statement around 1:30 p.m. Saturday saying they looked forward to negotiations.

“Throughout the negotiation process, the City has worked in good faith to reach an agreement with AFSCME,” said Noah Schuchman, Chief Administrative Officer. “We look forward to continuing this process. The City does not generally comment on ongoing labor negotiations and will not post any further comments. »

Mediation for the new contact will take place on Tuesday.

people at a rally holding placards
People hold signs during a rally for AFSCME Local 66-City of Duluth workers on the steps of Duluth City Hall on Saturday February 26, 2022.

Dan Williamson/Duluth News Tribune

man speaking in front of people gathered for a rally
Max Hall, Director of External Relations and Planning for AFSCME Council 5, walks while speaking into a microphone during a rally for workers at AFSCME Local 66 in the City of Duluth on the steps from Duluth City Hall on Saturday, February 26, 2022.

Dan Williamson/Duluth News Tribune

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