Patterns of precedentsWritten by Lisa Renee Ward | | firstname.lastname@example.org
One union contract signed in the late 1990s started the chain of events for pension pickup by the City of Toledo; it became a standard for all of its union contracts. On July 20, the City of Toledo took another step backward by accepting the fact finder’s report for AFSCME Local 3411.
It’s another step back because Local 92, the union representing Toledo’s firefighters, will be paid back its temporary give-back of 3 percent of pension pickup. Precedent could be argued by other bargaining units and accepted by future fact-finding.
The approximately 74 workers who work for the Municipal Clerk of Courts and are represented by Local 3411 were paying 1.5 percent toward their pension pickup. The bargaining unit was seeking a 3.5 percent raise in the final year of the contract and no increase in the pension contribution.
Toledo as a city was seeking a 1.5 percent smaller raise and a 1.5 percent increase in the pension contribution as concessions. The fact finder decided for the city on the raise but for the union on the pension pickup.
Members of Toledo City Council had several options before them on July 20 — accept the fact finder’s report, reject the fact finder’s report or do nothing. If it was not rejected or approved, the terms would automatically go into effect at 11:59 p.m. July 21.
On the question of accepting the fact finder’s report, Council members Joe McNamara, George Sarantou, Tom Waniewski, Wilma Brown, D. Michael Collins, Mike Craig and Adam Martinez voted no. Steve Steel, Lindsay Webb, Michael Ashford, Phil Copeland and Rob Ludeman voted yes.
The question raised by Collins of whether Local 3411 was defined by Ohio’s State Employment Relations Board (SERB) as a strike or nonstrike unit created lengthy discussion. An unsigned document from 1993 stated an agreement was made that would make it a nonstrike unit, which could create a different dispute process.
This 1993 document was revealed to the law department and to the administration July 19. They were not aware of its existence. SERB was contacted by Ellen Grachek of the city’s law department to attempt to get a legal clarification. She said a ruling, if sought, would not happen until August.
Collins said this was important to know so Council would be aware of the ramifications of rejecting the fact finding report. Additional concerns about City Council not having its own legal representation were raised. It was stated several times that the law department was representing the Clerk of Courts on this issue and a conflict of interest could be created if they advised Council. An attempt by Webb to delay voting on rejection until legal counsel could be sought failed.
Mayor Mike Bell asked Council to reject the fact finder’s report. He said the city can not afford this contract and “we are going to be in the same position we were at the beginning of this year.”
Bell also raised concerns about the precedent this factfinder’s report could create.
The cost factor and the precedent were raised several times by members of Council and the administration during the discussion.
On the vote to reject the fact finder’s report, McNamara, Sarantou, Waniewski, Brown and Martinez voted yes. Steel, Webb, Ashford, Copeland, Collins, Craig and Ludeman voted no. Since eight yes votes were needed, the legislation to reject the fact finder’s report failed.
Those who voted “no” created the same outcome as if they had voted “yes” on the legislation to approve the fact finder’s report. It ended the process there, barring some later attempt at a contract re-opener.
It will make it more difficult for discussions with other bargaining units when it comes to concessions related to pension pick up. It also makes it less urgent to obtain answers as to the strike or nonstrike status of Local 3411.
The Bell administration did not get the support it needed from Council; Council was given an issue to decide without access to independent legal counsel.
No mention was made of the lobbying by the union or who promised to support the union.
Toledo Free Press contributor Lisa Renee Ward operates the political blog Glass City Jungle.