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As strike impacts events, Minneapolis park board holds special meeting

Minneapolis park worker strike could last longer than anticipated
Minneapolis park worker strike could last longer than anticipated 01:39

MINNEAPOLIS — Monday is day five of the Minneapolis park workers strike, and union leaders are upping the ante as negotiations remain at a standstill. 

LIUNA Local 363 filed a new unfair labor practice complaint against the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and Superintendent Al Bangoura for what they call illegal and anti-worker behavior, including threatening their job security.

"Threatening that they would lose their jobs, potentially threatening demotions, threatening to take away their seniority and telling them that they would not be allowed to come back to work until the strike was resolved and a contract was then ratified," said A.J. Lange, LIUNA Local 363's business manager.

The park board then changed course, saying striking employees would be welcomed back.

The union represents a little more than a third of the city's full-time and seasonal staff labor staff. 

At a special meeting of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Monday, a commissioner asked Superintendent of Parks Al Bangoura what comes next.

"We need to come back to the table and we are willing to do that," Bangoura said. "I would continue to work with not only our team, but the union, to get back to the table and that's what we want to do."

That was in spite of an assistant superintendent saying minutes before that returning to the table would be "negotiating against ourselves."

The park board said it presented its last, best and final offer, which included a 10.25% wage increase over three years, plus two market adjustments for 13 positions.

Union leaders say they deserve more, adding workers' pay has slipped by 10% in the last three years because of inflation.  


"We're the number one parks system in the nation year after year," said AJ Lange, LiUNA Local 363's business manager. "That's because of these folks. That's because of these workers in the field every day."

A little more than a third of the parks staff is on strike after months of negotiations stalled.

The Minnesota Orchestra has canceled its Monday night concert at Lake Harriet because of the strike. The Minneapolis POPS concerts scheduled for Saturday and Sunday were also canceled.

The board says it's confident about still being able to deliver core services.

But union leadership now says the strike may go beyond the initial plan of one week, meaning workers might not be back by Thursday.

"If it's necessary, if it takes longer than that because they haven't woken up and heard our message yet, we'll continue the strike," Lange said. "We will not stop until we get the respect that we deserve."

And while park bathrooms may be open, that doesn't mean they're stocked with soap or toilet paper. Union members also posted pictures to social media showing flooded paths not closed off because of the strike.

Also among those on strike are crew members in charge of testing water safety at park pools.

"I won't glamorize the job, you know. It is dirty, it is hard, it is disgusting sometimes," said worker Mitchell Clendenen. "But seeing the park patrons' smiles really makes up for it. But unfortunately, I can't get paid in smiles."

Board leaders said last week they came up with a plan to adjust priorities and staffing locations to minimize impacts to the public.  

They declined WCCO's request for an interview, but a board spokesperson sent WCCO a statement saying in part that all employees, including those on strike, will be welcomed back to work.

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