Brainerd area state employees remain hopeful a contract will be worked out before the Sept. 17 strike date, but state agencies and employees both are prepared for a strike.
Mike Patrick, a DNR fisheries technician and AFSCME Council 6 executive board member and master negotiating team member, said today the last round of negotiations didn't go well and union members are prepared to go on the picket line.
"Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to see the negotiations turn out as they have," he said. "It's not good."
Local state agencies affected include the State Patrol, the DNR, Central Lakes College and the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center.
Mike Engler, customer relations director with BRHSC, said the hospital has a strike plan in place; one that uses managers, supervisors and others from the Minnesota Department of Health in support roles such as laundry services and housekeeping. Gov. Jesse Ventura would also activate the National Guard, who in turn would be trained to help at the human services center, added Engler.
The State Patrol, too, has a plan in place, said Capt. Kent O'Grady, in case the Brainerd districts five radio operators and three office staffers strike. The strike will not affect any uniformed troopers.
Many more state workers could be walking off the job and onto the picket line if the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees union decides to reject the state's contract offer and votes to strike.
A possible strike would be the first for AFSCME members since 1981, and that 22-day strike is still on the minds of several state employees. Engler said the difference now is the possibility of MAPE striking means no professional employees will be working as well.
Another difference between the 1981 and possible 2001 strike would be location, said Engler, as BRHSC now runs 11 adult foster care homes throughout north-central Minnesota, as opposed to the single campus in 1981.
Though a strike may seem imminent, there is hope that a contract can be worked out when the two sides meet Sept. 13 for negotiations.
"I don't look forward to have to (plan for a strike), Engler said. "Hopefully they'll get this resolved and we won't have to worry about a strike."
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