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Strike update: City workers union, Virginia to meet in mediation

Dozens of Virginia employees picket in front of Virginia City Hall on the first day of AFSCME #454's strike March 6, 2024.
Megan Buffington
Dozens of Virginia, Minnesota, city employees picket in front of Virginia City Hall on the first day of AFSCME Local No. 454's strike on Wednesday, March 6, 2024.

AFSCME Local 454 has been striking since March 6 after the city withdrew its most recent contract offer.

VIRGINIA, MINN. — The city of Virginia and AFSCME Council 65 met for mediation Tuesday, March 12, six days after the union representing about 80 city employees went on strike last week.

The two sides have had four mediation sessions since December. The most recent on Feb. 27 ended with a contract offer from the city that union members said they intended to accept. The City Council withdrew the offer to pursue further negotiations the same day the union was set to vote on the contract.

Local 454 represents employees in the library, event center and the public works, parks and recreation, and administrative departments.

The union invited the public to show their support by gathering outside Virginia City Hall at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, ahead of the evening’s City Council meeting.

“Show your support for AFSCME City of Virginia members & tell the City to respect the work we do by offering us a fair contract,” stated a social media post about the gathering.

Union leaders say the city tried to balance its budget by cutting union employees’ benefits. The city says it is respecting citizens’ desire to keep the tax levy low after an originally estimated 2024 levy increase of 15% was reduced to 4%.

According to Local 454’s Facebook page, the city contracted a local company to pick up garbage, a service impacted by the strike. The union picketed Monday outside City Hall with a large, inflatable rat called “Scabby,” according to social media posts.

The tension between the city and the union has been building for months. The union said it is filing an unfair labor practice charge against the city, saying they failed to negotiate in good faith. Last month, union members picketed outside councilors’ homes, and one council member drew criticism for presenting union members with a bucket of pacifiers. The City Council passed an emergency ordinance banning targeted residential picketing.

Megan Buffington joined the KAXE newsroom in 2024 after graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Originally from Pequot Lakes, she is passionate about educating and empowering communities through local reporting.