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After a week on strike, Local 454 members pressure board to return to past offer

Striking AFSCME members, and supporters from other unions and the community, rallied before the city of Virginia, Minnesota, caved and offered a fair deal. Photo: Photo credit: Ezra Kane-Salafia/ AFSCME
After a week on strike, Local 454 members pressure board to return to past offer
By Ezra Kane-Salafia ·
After a week on strike, Local 454 members pressure board to return to past offer
Photo credit: Ezra Kane-Salafia/ AFSCME

VIRGINIA, Minn. – AFSCME members who work for the city of Virginia, Minnesota, have called off their strike after management finally offered them a contract they took back just days ago.

Early last week, the City Council of Virginia and the city workers, members of AFSCME Local 454 (Council 65) were deep in contentious negotiations. With a strike just hours away, the city council offered a “last, best and final offer” to Local 454 members. The workers, seeing an opportunity to avert a strike in the town of 8,500 people, headed to a vote on the deal.

But before the workers could vote, the city council revoked the deal and pulled the rug out from under the workers. It was what workers called an exceptional display of bad-faith negotiating and they voted unanimously to strike. In a mining region with a long labor history, the workers were confident that the community would support their fight for a fair deal.

On Tuesday, AFSCME members proved how strong their support was when several hundred members of AFSCME Council 65 and Council 5, as well as other unions from across the state, showed up to support the workers at mediation. The rally wrapped around Virginia City Hall and the  supporters backed up the negotiating team as they went into a six-hour mediated bargaining session with the city.

Scott DaRonco, president of Local 454 said, “It was really incredible to see the power of working people standing together. I just can’t say enough about how grateful I am to all the union members, local businesses and community members who have supported us through this. We won’t forget how you stood with us.”

The workers came out victorious. The combined pressure of the strike, the support of hundreds of workers and community members, and increasing media coverage forced the city council to put its past offer back on the table, and pass it in a city council session shortly after negotiations concluded. Members of Local 454 overwhelmingly approved the tentative agreement later Tuesday and called off the strike.

The contract settles questions about insurance costs for AFSCME members, and brings compensation in line with other units in the city. Despite efforts by the city council to force painful financial changes on AFSCME members, the contract holds the line against major givebacks.

“We’re glad to be getting back to work for the citizens of Virginia,” DaRonco said. “This was a fair deal when they bait-and-switched us last week. It’s still a fair deal today, but it’s unfortunate that the city council decided to screw around with 62 working families and the citizens of Virginia just to get back to that fair deal.”

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