On Aug. 14, Hubbard County Social Services employees overwhelmingly voted to authorize a labor strike if county administration did not resolve its outstanding issues through state-facilitated mediation.

According to a press release from Teamsters Local 320, the negotiators for Hubbard County failed to put forward a consistent contract offer for Social Services employees during two days of mediation.

The only county employees affected by these negotiations are the 53 social services employees covered by the social services union contract, who are Teamsters Local 320 members.

The parties are attempting to reach a three-year agreement.

"The negotiations between Hubbard County and its employees broke down because the employer wasn't shooting straight with us," says Brian Aldes, Secretary Treasurer of Teamsters Local 320 and chief spokesperson. "The negotiators for Hubbard County unilaterally changed a tentative agreement hammered out through the mediation process."

Hubbard County Coordinator Deb Thompson responded on behalf of the county.

"Hubbard County has negotiated in good faith with the union. Seven meetings were held between September 2016 and April 2017, prior to a mediator from the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) coming to Park Rapids to assist the parties with the process in late July," Thompson said. "A wage increase and other major items were tentatively agreed upon by the parties."

Thompson went on to say that the State Department of Human Services has mandated that the county provide 24/7 response to child protection reports. A sticking point has been how this will occur and how Social Services workers will be compensated for being on-call during non-business hours.

Aldes said the county employees will only strike if the county does not provide a complete and coherent contract offer. The strike is not over economic issues, but the integrity of the collective bargaining process.

"No one wants a strike, but the workers in this community have been treated unfairly and unprofessionally," Aldes said. "These workers just want respect and dignity on the job."

The 24/7 child protection is at the center of ongoing negotiations.

"The county continued to work with the union to refine language and answer the union's questions once it became clear that the parties were not in agreement with the 24/7 child protection on-call proposal," Thompson said. "The county is continuing to try to resolve the issues through the BMS Mediator and the union's representatives."