ELYRIA TWP. — County commissioners say contract negotiations with the Lorain County Job and Family Services workers broke down over the issue of spousal coverage, prompting union employees to go on strike early Monday.
The workers, represented by United Automobile Workers Local 2192, haven’t had a contract since the last three-year pact expired Sept. 14, 2016. At a commissioners’ meeting Sept. 13, labor leaders accused the county of bad faith in negotiations and two days later the union filed a 10-day strike notice with the State Employment Relations Board.
The 10 days expired at 12:01 a.m. Monday, and employees went on strike.
The UAW represents 170 workers at the department.
A note on the Facebook page for the county agency told clients to expect delays at the office, 42485 North Ridge Road, because of the labor disputes, leaving about one-third of the non-union staff to handle the work.
While the hours at the agency are unchanged, staff noted that the ability to answer or respond to phone calls is limited and urged clients to use the agency’s website.
The county also is posting updates about the strike at www.lcdjfs.com.
Lorain County Administrator Jim Cordes said the county plans to post the details of the contract, all of which have been agreed to except for the spousal coverage, over the next week to dispute the claim that the workers haven’t been given a fair contract.
The breakdown between the parties is because commissioners want a contract where if an employee’s spouse has insurance available with his or her employer, the spouse would be on the employer’s plan. County employees and children would stay on the county plan. If the spouse doesn’t have access to employer insurance or makes less then $25,000, the spouse could stay on the county plan.
Commissioners said workers rejected several proposals for spouses who have access to employer coverage but want to stay on the county plan.
One such proposal includes allowing spousal coverage by having the county employee pay a surcharge on top of the monthly employee contribution.
Union chairwoman Kelly Fields said this is a major sticking point.
“We’ve been asking for figures on the surcharge for over a year,” Fields said. “They want us to sign a blank check. They won’t tell us how much the surcharge is going to be.”
Fields agreed that the union had signed off on all other aspects of the contract but said going on strike “kind of opens everything up.”
Fields said commissioners had a chance for a contract in June when it received a report from a fact-finder, but commissioners rejected the findings.
“This would have been done,” Fields said.
Cordes said the language from the fact-finder was rejected because it would have tied future contracts to the same language, some of which are binding in arbitration.
Plus, Cordes said, the union only agreed to the fact-finder because it didn’t have the numbers required for a vote to reject it.
“If neither party votes on the fact-finding report, it automatically goes in to place,” Cordes said.
Cordes said it’s not ideal to be publishing parts of the contract online, but commissioners think it’s their last resort.
“We don’t particularly want to do it, but we have no other way to communicate,” Cordes said.
Commissioners said 11 of the 16 bargaining units in the county have agreed to the “surcharge” language.
The commissioners and workers met most recently Sunday, but Cordes said the workers left the mediation session without a response to the county’s proposals and went to a steak fry.
“Both sides need to be willing to bring a dispute to a mutual resolution and unfortunately, in this case, the Local 2192 bargaining committee chose instead to go to a steak fry and to strike rather than to stay in mediation and get a resolution or provide an offer that was made to settle the dispute to their membership,” the county said in a statement.
Local 2192 workers last went on three-day strike in 2013 over wage increases.
- No progress on Lorain Job and Family Services contract
- Negotiations continue in strike by Job and Family Services employees
- Job and Family Services strike reaches one-month mark
- Lorain County, UAW reach tentative contract
- County Job & Family Services strike is over
- Health care coverage trips up talks between county, police union
- Jobs and Family Services strike enters its fifth day
- Lorain Council resolution supports picketing county workers
- Neither side willing to budge in Job and Family Services strike
- Striking JFS workers demonstrate at commissioners' meeting
- UAW workers picketing county Jobs and Family Services (VIDEO)
- Fractious negotiations lead union leader to call commissioners 'traitors'