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The Minneapolis park workers' strike will continue indefinitely, past the one-week timeline the union initially set shortly before the July 4th holiday weekend.

"We are united. We have each others' backs. Organized labor has our back. The community has our back, and we will fight until we get a fair contract and the respect we deserve," said AJ Lang, the business manager for the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 363.

The announcement from union officials came Wednesday afternoon with up to 100 workers and supporters in bright orange shirts and picket signs outside the Mary Merrill Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Headquarters, 2117 West River Road.

After seven months of negotiations, things have been at a standstill since a 16-hour meeting July 1, Lang said. He has publicly called on the park board to return to the bargaining table, but park board officials have said they extended their last, best and final offer during the last meeting.

The workers — who clean pools, maintain playground equipment, clean storm debris and search beaches for hypodermic needles — have for years called for improved wages, health insurance and safety precautions.

The union represents more than 200 full-time employees and more than 100 seasonal employees. The park board is a semi-autonomous governing body in Minneapolis.

The park system is consistently ranked among the nation's best and its workers have never before turned to a strike in the system's 141-year history.

Wednesday, workers repeatedly slammed the park board for letting wages fall behind inflation and the pay of park workers in neighboring cities. Meanwhile, challenges associated with encampments of unhoused people, substance abuse and civil unrest in recent years have strained workers.

"This is the most challenging place in Minnesota to be a park keeper but it's one of the lowest-paying in the metro area," Lang said Wednesday.

The park board's last offer included a 10.25% wage increase and a $1 hourly market adjustment for many full-time positions, totaling a nearly $5 per hour raise. The deal would cost the park board $4.6 million.

But the union has called the offer insufficient and said it contains "poison pills" to withhold automatic pay raises to employees, among other issues.

The union's counteroffer would cost $6.7 million, according to the park board.

The union launched its strike July 4 – what Lang called the busiest time of year for the city's park system. About 40% of the workforce participated, although the number could have grown since then because many workers were on vacation through the weekend.

Robin Smothers, a spokesperson for the park board, said last week that maintenance services would be adjusted to minimize the impact of the strike on park visitors. She said Wednesday the only disruption so far were three canceled outdoor concerts.

As time goes on, union members said, golf courses and pools may also close.

Staff writer Susan Du contributed to this report.