Strike talks resume; no deal reached yet

Jessica Thompson

Union leaders and state mediators began negotiations Thursday in the first formal talks between the groups since more than 23,000 state employees went on strike earlier this month.

Citing unlivable wages and an unfair health care plan, members of the state’s two largest unions – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 6 and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees – rejected the state’s 2002-03 contract offers and hit the picket lines Oct. 1.

Peter Benner, president of AFSCME Council 6, said union members are prepared to continue striking, but he is hopeful an agreement can be reached this week.

“Everyone is tired going into this. The mediator has made it clear that we are going to resolve this dispute, it’s just a question of when …. But failure at these two days does not mean failure forever,” Benner said.

Discussions began at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel in Arden Hills – the same hotel where some negotiations talks were held during a 1981 AFSCME strike.

As of press time Thursday no accord had been reached, but negotiators and union leaders said they hope to reach an agreement by Friday.

– Jessica Thompson