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‘An important part of the context for our negotiations’

Published: Fri, November 4, 2011 @ 12:01 a.m.

RELATED: Despite looming vote, some labor deals are up in the air

Staff report


Regardless of the outcome of the state Issue 2 ballot initiative, it’s

already had an impact on a number of public-employee contracts in the Mahoning Valley.

On Tuesday’s ballot, Issue 2 would either retain or repeal Senate Bill 5, a law passed by the state Legislature in April that restricts some collective-bargaining rights for public employees.

Since its passage, numerous employee unions in the area have approved contract extensions and renewals. The effort to repeal the law suspended its implementation.

“SB 5 was an important part of the context for our negotiations, as I’m sure it must have been for every public-sector union that has bargained a contract this year,” said Sherry Linkon, a spokeswoman for the Youngstown State University Chapter of the Ohio Education Association, which represents professors. “It made us more conscious of how our actions would be seen by the community.”

The union ratified a new three-year concessionary agreement in late September after protracted talks and a strike threat. The YSU trustees approved the contract on Oct. 26.

“I imagine that some of our members may have voted to accept the new contract because they were worried that if we voted it down, that would generate support for Issue 2,” Linkon said, “while others were concerned that if we didn’t settle in time, the bill could be upheld and the [YSU] board [of trustees] could impose whatever terms it wanted on us.”

Several employee unions in Youngstown approved contracts shortly after SB 5 passed. All of the contracts included freezes in base-pay salaries as well as no increases in perks such as longevity and uniform payments and education bonuses. The contracts kept the employee health-care contribution at 10 percent. If Issue 2 passes, the employee health-care contribution goes to 15 percent.

Steve Procick, president of the city’s water-department union, said in April, when the contract was approved, that there were “concerns over SB 5” by his membership, and the bill “changed the game a little bit,” providing a sense of urgency to get the contract approved.

“Absolutely, it made a difference,” said John Gulu, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 42 in Campbell, about SB 5’s impact on his union’s contract negotiations. “It made it more of a necessity to compromise with the city instead of fighting.”

In the Canfield school district, three unions approved contracts. The union members will see their health-insurance contributions increase from 8 percent this school year to 9 percent the next school year and then 10 percent in 2013-14.

Keith Moffo, president of the district’s Ohio Association of Public School Employees, which represents support staff, said a small portion of the union’s negotiations took Issue 2 into account. Passage of the district’s levy on Tuesday’s ballot was a more pressing matter, he said.

Union leaders who negotiated three-year contracts for workers at the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office and county Job and Family Services office say State Issue 2 did create a sense of urgency to get their contract in place prior to Tuesday’s election.

Both unions approved new contracts last week.

Denise Stark, president of Local 458 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, said workers at Job and Family Services didn’t want to be “sitting ducks” in the event that SB 5 goes into effect.

“Senate Bill 5 takes away all of our rights,” Stark said, adding that there is language in the bill that limits the amount of time allowed for contract negotiations that could affect pay and benefits more than most people realize.

“We did have the urgency to get under contract now for the fear of being out there with no contract in case it [Issue 2] does pass,” she said.

Randall Weltman, an attorney for the Ohio Patrolman’s Benevolent Association, which last week approved a three-year contract with the county covering 65 deputies and other workers at the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office, said Issue 2 did motivate workers to get a contract in place now rather than wait.

But like Stark, Weltman said the two-year state budget approved this summer was the more important factor that affected the terms of the contract workers approved.

Workers at sheriff’s office accepted a two-year wage freeze in their contract and a reopener in 2013 on wages.

They will continue to pay 10 percent of their health-care premiums during the three years, which are retroactive to Jan. 1.

Sheriff’s employees and JFS employees agreed to allow random drug testing for the first time in this contract.

In Struthers, the International Association of Firefighters Local 1910 and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Local 759, Ohio Council 8, came to the city administration and council to get their contracts finalized.

Their contracts were set to expire Monday, the day before the election, said Mayor Terry Stocker. Council voted to accept both contracts Oct. 26.

“If Senate Bill 5 passes, their collective-bargaining agreements are in effect for three years,” Stocker said.

There are no raises or changes in health care in the contracts. Union members pay 7 percent toward health care, he said, and the city could not force them to pay 15 percent if Issue 2 passes until after the contract expires.

Stocker said he sees SB 5, which he doesn’t support, as “a double-edged sword.”

“It gives cities the ability to negotiate up to 15 percent” toward health benefits, Stocker said. “It’s a benefit to cities to offset costs of [state funding] cuts.”

At the same time, Stocker said, “Do we go after employees and make it harder on them?”

Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone, who also opposes SB 5, say the bill helped resolve contracts quickly with unions.

“I would think the unions would rather settle now rather than take a chance on SB 5,” he said. “That’s would I would do.”

If Issue 2 passes, “every public entity would save money,” Sammarone said.

But how much is uncertain.

“We don’t have the statewide information because it would require pulling every contract city by city and school district by school district,” said Connie Wehrkamp, a spokeswoman for Building a Better Ohio, the main group supporting Issue 2.

The legislation restricting some collective-bargaining rights was designed to help local governments and school districts save money by eliminating certain employee perks — such as longevity pay — as well as require employees to pay at least 15 percent of their health-care contributions and 10 percent of their pensions.

“Our communities have been dealing with financial problems, and SB 5 is part of a broader reform package,” Wehrkamp said. “Every dollar the government saves is a dollar taxpayers don’t have to spend. Hopefully, local governments will use the tools provided to save money and get costs under control. We’ve seen many cases how SB 5 is impacting contracts.”

In response, Melissa Fazekas, a spokeswoman for We Are Ohio, the main group opposing Issue 2, said, “Some local officials, mayors and school boards have said that the cuts they sustained from the state budget cannot be overcome by the ‘tools’ Issue 2 supporters claim are available from Senate Bill 5. The fact is, the same people who support Issue 2 also passed a state budget that cut funding for classrooms and local communities by more than $3 billion. It’s not only wrong to balance the budget on the backs of middle-class families, it’s also unlikely local communities could make up the lost vital state funding from Senate Bill 5.”

Contributors: Vindicator reporters David Skolnick, Denise Dick, Ed Runyan, Jeanne Starmack, Christine Keeling


1Joe306tow(49 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

The Fuzzy math surrounding issue 2 is crazy. The Vote Yes supporters Claim that Public Employees earn 43% more (wages and benefits) than they would in the private sector.

They also claim that actual wages are about the same or 2.5% less for the private sector. The vote No supporters claim that Public Employees earn 3.3% less than comparable private sector jobs.

I had to check with Career Board's Salary Calculator to find the truth. My Job earns 17.4% less than the Local Average to 18.5% less than the National Average of a private sector job.

Whats more the Vote Yes people use Vacation Days, fringe benefits, and a layoff factor to get their 43%.

1.) Wages according to Career Builder are less for public employees.

2.) Only Full Time 52 week School employees receive any Vacation time in the district I work for. 70% do not receive Vacation and/or fringe benefits.

3.) The Layoff factor of up to 9.3% does not add one cent to pay or benefits. It is like a happiness factor, not real money.

4.) According to the Vote Yes site, Public Employees earn 31.2% more? Which is it Vote Yes fools, 43% or 31.2%? Sounds like you cannot get your math straight.

You must be an uneducated bunch of Republican Farmers, that did not get past the 8th grade.

Vote NO on issue 2 and tell the Vote Yes people to go back to school, so they can DO THE MATH!!

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2squarepeg(2 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

What this article fails to mention is the additional damage that SB5 has done to morale and to institutional and community loyalty for many in public service. These effects, whether justified or not, are likely to be felt for years to come in the forms of added distrust, lost talent, and missed opportunities to move forward together. (On the other hand, Issue 2 is likely to be hugely beneficial in getting people to get out and vote next week.)

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3UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

*** Issue 2 is all about FAIRNESS ***

Your Yes vote on Issue 2 Tuesday will bring that about. Please support Governor John Kasich & his Ohio government economy reform package. We can't continue down the path of high taxes and private sector job losses.

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4candystriper(575 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Kaiser estimates the average health insurance policy for a family is $15,000.00 per year.

9% of the cost...seriously?

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5Ypboy(64 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Please stop and think. Look around you and you will see what the unions have done to Youngstown. Yesterday's headline was Ytown has the highest rate of poverty in the U. S. Please support our Governor who is trying to reform Ohio. Thank you.

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6Stan(9923 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

When the going gets tough there is that all time favorite tax increase in The Valley . . .. Government workers deserve the best . . .. So you want austerity for them ? Surely you jest !



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7NoBS(2763 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago


And as for SB 5 having an impact on negotiations, what about the many many public employee unions who are on their SECOND CONTRACT with zero raises and more givebacks, more concessions, and increased copays? How far back can SB 5 take credit for, before it's obvious fiction?


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8LeoFibanacci(19 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Most Ohio public employees pay nowhere near what private sector employees pay for their own health care benefit. Most private sector workers have no pension but have a 401k instead in which the worker provides most of the funding. The public sector is still in denial and the taxpayers must send a message that the public sector must pay more for their own health care and pension. The taxpayers can no longer fund their own health care and pensions and that of the public workers.

Vote yes on 2.

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9peacelover(838 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

I am voting NO on 2.

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10pgurney(296 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

I've already voted NO on 2 and would do it again.

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11AnotherAverageCitizen(1193 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

So, the private sector has screwed their employees and took away retirements from them, so now you want everyone to suffer because corporations are greedy. The old " I don't get it so neither should you" theory.

kasich said from the beginning how many thounds of workers this will effect. Too bad he did not tell us how many thousands will not be effected. Maybe if all public workers were treated the same by kasich sb5 would not be defeated next week.

Sure unions have taken pay freezes, still pay for retirement, all while your buddy 'kasich and Company' get huge raises and pay nothing for retirement and bene's. But still you support him, even though he does not support you and I and Ohio.

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12georgejeanie(1496 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Vote yes on 2

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13TheTruth4U(29 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

What a crock it is to say "The private sector doesn't have it so neither should the public sector"!
We have allowed the oligarchs to divide us for years, using race, economics and greed.
Instead of us working against each other to take away a good standard of living for one group or another, we should be working together to get these benefits back into the private sector. No one wins when you are racing to the bottom!

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14YtownParent(1004 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

No the public sector shouldn't have anything that is absent in the private sector. In fact the public sector should have less, much less than the private sector. One, to keep government costs down. Two, to foster and encourage creativity and innovation. There is no motivation for anyone in the public sector to think and use their talents to create new products, new technology, and new jobs because government jobs are now some of the best jobs a person can land instead of the lowly jobs they were when Einstein was just a patent clerk.

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15busy(12 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

In case anyone is on the fence...
We have a detective working on a robbery case for us, when the robbery took place he was on vacation. One week he called us. 3 weeks later we are still getting zero calls returned from him regarding the case. Today we are told 'sorry he is on vacation.'
MUST BE NICE to get all of this vacation time, completely ignore your cases, tell us you have a heavy work load....then ask people to vote for your future pay, retirement and healthcare.

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16jupiter(116 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

@FD6636-FINALLY! Someone with the clarity of mind to see the "bigger picture!!" EXCELLENT POST! The "laws of unintended consequences" will eat away at any
(negligible) savings that SB-5 may give to cities. Don't like that police Sgt. who wrote your son for driving like a jerk? SB-5 will take care of him...he can now be fired for any reason whatsoever. Think he's gonna take getting fired without fighting for his career? Good luck with saving any money when your city is paying him damages....

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17borylie(946 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago


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18jupiter(116 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

borylie, public employees are EXEMPT from the protections of the NLRB...and even if they were covered-how many ridiculously blatant violations of employees' rights have occurred with protections in place? I seem to remember a certain city firing employees for exercising their rights under state law....I believe the total pay-out in damages was upwards of half-a-million dollars....for two employees! Wait and see the games that are played by so-called "management" should SB-5 pass.
SB-5 is not about health care and pension "reform." If it were it would be two pages. Explain the other 298 pages that make-up this politically punitive legislative failure. SB-5 is about breaking unions. Unions are not perfect...but in the vacuum of their absence NEPOTISM and CRONYISM reign supreme. 21st Century Ohio, Welcome to the (political) machine....!!!!

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19cbog76(22 comments)posted 4 years, 8 months ago

Remember when all the fuss was going on in Wisconsin? All the fear tactics from both side as to what would happen if the collective bargaining was taken away.
Look what is happening there now.
Some schools are operating in the black for the first time in years and hiring new teachers. Insurance costs for teachers have went down because they didn't have to pay the high prices the union owned agency was charging.
I looked at all of that right before I cast my "yes" vote.

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