The party chairman says he should have gotten labor leaders involved in the selection process.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The close, long-standing relationship between organized labor and the Democratic Party in the Mahoning Valley is on the brink of change.
The head of the Greater Youngstown AFL-CIO, one of the county's largest unions, says if his membership continues to be excluded from the county Democratic Party's decision-making process, they will reconsider their support of the party.
"There are times when we work real close with the Democratic Party and maybe that's going to change in the future," said Larry Fauver, president of the Greater Youngstown AFL-CIO, which represents about 30,000 to 35,000 active and retired members.
"They come to us for help in certain areas and we're going to look a little bit closer at the things we do. In the future, there may be things we won't be doing."
What happened: The problems have been simmering for a while, Fauver said. But they boiled over this weekend when the party appointed Robert J. Wasko, a former clerk to the county commissioners, to a seat on the board of elections, he said. Labor members wanted one of their own on the board, preferably Patricia Bowser, Fauver said.
During Saturday's vote by the party's executive committee, Wasko received 16 votes. Bowser and incumbent board member Kathleen Dillon each received one vote.
"If you're going to use us and you're going to work with us, then we should at least be sitting at the table and have input prior to reading about it in the newspaper," Fauver said. The Vindicator published an article before the elections board vote stating Wasko was expected to be elected.
Fauver and other union leaders met with Democratic Chairman David Ditzler and party officials Saturday before the executive committee meeting to air their concerns.
Ditzler said the party continuously shows its support of labor. But Ditzler acknowledged he should have gotten labor involved in the selection process for an elections board member.
Ditzler said he just doesn't have the time to involve every faction in the decision making and because of that, he will not seek re-election later this year as party chairman.
"That's been a failing on my part to assemble enough ... people needed to represent every faction so people can feel part of the decision-making process," he said. "But the party represents labor, and labor supports the party."
Even if labor were involved in the selection process, it wouldn't have made any difference in this case, Ditzler said. Also, Ditzler questioned how much influence labor should have over selecting an elections board member.
"It's a position that I would no more call and ask Larry Fauver to hire somebody from the party then expect Larry Fauver to want to have someone hired from labor onto the board of elections," he said.
Response: Fauver said his union, which has about 60 local units, is heavily involved in Democratic fund-raising and assisting Democratic candidates. Without a louder voice, the AFL-CIO may be on the sidelines, Fauver said.
"We hope there are some changes made," Fauver said. "If not, we're going to do what we have to do and just do our thing. There's been other issues out there before that we've had to sit down and talk about.
"We were told things were going to change and they just haven't changed. It's the same thing."