MANKATO (AP) -- State employees threatening to go on strike next month over wage increases and health care costs picketed the Minnesota Vikings training camp in the hopes of drawing more attention to their concerns.
On Monday, area members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees lined Stadium Road to catch the attention of Vikings fans and media covering the training camp at Minnesota State University.
"It's an informational picket," said Scott Melby, a St. Peter Regional Treatment Center employee.
"We're hoping to have people see us. A lot of the work AFSCME does for the state goes unnoticed because we do a good job at it," he said.
The union represents various employees working for state agencies including clerical, maintenance and food service workers.
The latest contract offer from the state includes a 2 percent annual wage increase, Melby said. The union has asked for a 6 percent increase for each of the next two years. Melby said state employees have been getting annual wage increases of 2 percent or less for the past several years.
Union members will vote the last week of August on whether to accept the state's two-year contract offer. Union negotiators are recommending that members reject the offer because it doesn't provide a large enough wage increase and requires too much of an increase in health care costs.
"Now that the state has a surplus, we should get an increase that will catch us up because the cost of living for everything is going up," Melby said.
If the 19,000 Minnesota AFSCME members vote against accepting the contract, a strike could start by the second or third week of September.
The line of pickets Monday caught the attention of Eden Prairie resident Amy Chappel, although she wasn't too sympathetic to the union's demands after learning more information.
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