NILES Health board nurses receive OK to join union

Some board members worried about the effect of a strike on city residents.
NILES -- The city's health board won't stop its two nurses from joining a union.
The board voted Monday not to oppose nurses Elizabeth McCallister and Kathy Salapata joining the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 506, the union that represents most nonsupervisory city workers.
The decision comes after months of discussions among the board, nurses and union representatives.
Some board members had raised concerns about the effect on city residents who rely on the nurses as their only health care if the nurses were to strike.
Bill VanZandt, regional director of AFSCME Ohio Council 8, said that if the nurses formed their own bargaining unit under the same local, they would be prohibited from going on strike.
Ohio law prohibits members of a bargaining unit comprised solely of nurses employed by a public entity to strike, he said. They could go on strike if they were members of the same bargaining unit that represents other city employees.
VanZandt said that to allay the board's fears about the nurses' striking he would encourage the formation of a separate bargaining unit for the nurses. But both units would bargain jointly.
If the board had voted to oppose McCallister and Salapata joining a union, the State Employment Relations Board would have conducted an election and the nurses would vote by secret ballot on whether to join despite the health board's decision.
Both nurses have said they want to join the union, listing job security and representation as their reasons.
Rescinded: In other business, the board rescinded a resolution passed in March to pay Michael Burke, environmental health director, for additional inspections of restaurants and grocery stores.
Burke, who is a full-time employee, earns $3,378 per month which is about $21 per hour. The increase would have allowed Burke to do the additional inspections for up to 200 hours annually at the same hourly rate.
The additional hours are to accommodate additional health inspections of restaurants and grocery stores required under state law. The change will require some inspections to be done on weekends and after business hours, city officials said.
A registered sanitarian will be hired part-time instead to do the additional inspections, board members said. The employee will be paid $6,400 annually.

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