Thursday, November 22, 2018 Elyria 26°

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Job and Family Services strike reaches one-month mark


ELYRIA — It’s been a month since Lorain County Jobs and Family Services employees went on strike, and it doesn’t look like it’s ending any time soon.

At a Lorain County Commissioners meeting Wednesday morning, members of the United Auto Workers Local 2192 voiced their continued frustration with the situation, which initially began over spousal insurance coverage.

“When I left work, I had approximately 50 cases that still needed to be processed,” Tammy McGinnis said. “I’m a newer case worker. Had I been there longer, like many of the people I walk with every day, my caseload would have been 150-plus.”

McGinnis said when she was out on the picket line a man approached her and other marchers and asked if they could help him get his food stamps.

“I came for the benefits and I quickly gained a quick sense of pride being able to take care of the people during their most difficult times so I could treat them with respect, care and compassion,” she said. “If you could imagine the pain in my heart when a man came up to the line and needed help with his food stamps. I looked that man in the eye because I have respect for him. I have been there. I have had to come and ask for help.”

In an effort to save on premiums, the commissioners wanted the ability to compel spouses who could get coverage at their own workplaces to take it. If spouses earned less than $25,000 per year or their insurance benefits at their jobs cost above a certain threshold, they would be allowed to keep county coverage.

If spouses were able to get employer-sponsored health insurance but still wanted to stay on the county’s plan, the commissioners were willing to let them do so if they paid a surcharge.

The union was upset that the county offered only a percentage rather than a firm figure of how much the surcharge would be. The commissioners ultimately gave in on the issue, agreeing not to levy a surcharge, but the strike is continuing because of issues regarding paid lunches.

County Administrator Jim Cordes mentioned during the meeting that the county had to play hardball with the company who covers prescription insurance because of issues with the contract.

“Things have changed in the marketplace for everyone,” he said. “I want to keep them on a short leash and constantly monitor it. It’s a good contract. They’ve done a good job, but there’s not increases in our cost savings, which we should be doing. We can never come to the end of the road on the contract language. … We’re not working another three years without a contract.”

Local 2192 member Otis Lovejoy said Cordes’ comments hit the heart of the strike issue.

“As far as I’m concerned, the statements Mr. Cordes made about the insurance speak volumes about our standpoint because you said you weren’t going to take a contract you thought was fair,” Lovejoy said. “I don’t have a degree. I have a wide background. I’ve worked at a lot of companies in this county. There’s not reason I should be at a job where I make less money and can’t support my family, but you guys still make all these cuts.”

Contact Katie Nix at 329-7129 or Follow her on Twitter @KatieHNix.

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