County Attorney Called on DAC Safety Concerns 02 Aug 17

An impasse in contract negotiations has left labor on the verge of a strike and management in the midst of uncertain contingency plans, with a fragile group of clients caught in between.

With a vote by Teamsters Local 120 to strike last month, and the end of a contract extension Sunday, Management at the Falls DAC in Thief River Falls Monday asked some clients to stay home, then told some unionized workers who showed up on time to go home, creating a host of safety questions with families and area group homes wondering what to do next.

Negotiations on a new contract for workers at the non-profit have not gone well this summer and finally broke down over the issue of a cost of living increase, which workers say they have not seen since 2015. Management says they have tried to address that deficiency by filling gaps in longevity steps, and the lack of health care coverage with a small, monthly stipend, but staff says that has not kept pace with increasing costs, with a strike vote on July 18th. With no resolution at the end of the contract extension Sunday, and no way to know for sure how many staff she would have Monday, Administrator Tammy Haugen says she started the week with a “contingency plan,” sending some staff home.

Janelle Fick, a Direct Service Professional at the DAC says that plan sparked a complaint from staff and concerns over client safety, reported to Law Enforcement, Human Services and the Pennington County Attorney’s Office.

As far as addressing the immediate safety of the 44 clients at the Falls DAC, County Attorney Alan Rogalla says his office is “in an information gathering mode;” still unclear whether the city or county has immediate jurisdiction.

The DAC was closed yesterday, a break that was already on the schedule, but Management and Employees both told our News Room they intend to be at work when the DAC reopens for business this morning.