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Local 363 Members Press Minneapolis City Council, Park Board for Fair Contracts

Steve Share, Minneapolis Labor Review Editor
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MINNEAPOLIS — Voicing the message, “workers have budgets, too,” members of City Employees Local 363 clad in orange t-shirts have turned out in force to recent budget hearings December 5 at the Minneapolis City Council and earlier November 15 at the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

The workers are in the midst of contract negotiations with both the city’s Public Works department and the independent Park Board.

“My department is ridiculously short-staffed,” said Local 363 member Joe Ohlgren, who works in solid waste and recycling, testifying at the city budget hearing. “I live, work, play and spend my money in this city. I love being a civil servant. Post these jobs and pay us a competitive wage!”

“Sometimes I feel like all my co-workers are only numbers to the city,” charged Local 363 member Scott Yahr. “I know the names of the people I work with… they are one of the most diverse workforces in the city.”

He urged, “please deliver a fair contract so we won’t feel just like numbers.”

“COVID sent everybody home — not us,” reminded Local 363 member Eric Sowder. City workers showed up through the pandemic and through the period of civil unrest following George Floyd’s murder by police in 2020. “Here we are continuing to do the things that nobody else wants to do — it’s us!”

“Pay us enough so we can afford to live in the city,” Sowder implored city council members.

“This city is the best city in the state… and we’re making minor league pay,” said Local 363 member Josh Faulkner.

“The city’s current offer remains below market rates,” said A.J. Lange, Local 363 business manager, and that’s having an impact on recruitment and retention.

“We show up everyday to serve the city with compassion and dedication,” Lange said.

He reminded council members that the city’s labor relations department represents them. “I’m asking you to use your authority to direct labor relations to offer us a fair contract that reflects the value of our work.”

After Lange spoke, Local 363 members filed out of the council chambers and overflow viewing room, stopping for a group photo beside the Father of Waters statue.

Local 363 member Sean Miller told the Labor Review why he came that night. “I like to support my union brothers and sisters and get our wages up to similar to our surrounding cities. We do the hard, dirty work and we get the least amount of pay.”

Local 363’s City and Park Board contracts both expire December 31, 2023.