The strike involves as many as 28,000 employees, about half the state’s workers, including highway maintenance workers, janitors and tax collectors. It did not include state police officers, prison guards, state college teachers and forest firefighters
The unions, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE), had delayed the strike two weeks following the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The Minnesota state government says it is facing a budget shortfall because of the slowing economy and could not afford the raises demanded by the unions.
According to published reports, the state offered AFSCME a 3% pay hike in each of the next two years, an increase from the initial offer of 2.0-2.5%. MAPE was offered a one-time 4% increase. However, after reducing its earlier demands, AFSCME was still looking for an annual 5% increase while MAPE was holding out for a 4.5% increase each year.
The state also wanted workers to assume a larger portion of the cost of their health benefits in the form of increased co-insurance, deductibles and co-payments, while the unions do not want their members to be responsible for an increased share of the cost of such benefits.
The action is the first state workers’ strike since 1981, when the walkout lasted 22 days.