Mahoning JFS union leader fired

Published: Fri, November 8, 2013 @ 12:06 a.m.

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By Peter H. Milliken


The Mahoning County commissioners fired Helen Youngblood, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2001, from her job as a training officer in the county’s Department of Job and Family Services.

With about 125 members at that department, AFSCME Local 2001 is the largest labor union representing JFS workers here.

The action, which is effective today, was taken Thursday by Carol Rimedio-Righetti, chairwoman of the county commissioners, and Commissioner David Ditzler in the absence of Commissioner Anthony Traficanti.

In a termination letter Thursday, Robert E. Bush Jr., JFS director, told Youngblood, of Coitsville Road, Campbell, that she is being terminated from her $50,960-a-year job “for gross misconduct.” Bush had recommended the commissioners fire her.

Youngblood could not be reached to comment.

Jack Filak, a regional AFSCME director, said the union will file a grievance under its contract and an unfair-labor-practice charge with the State Employment Relations Board. He said Youngblood wants to be reinstated to her job, and the union will help her achieve that goal.

“We believe that her actions were part of protected union activity. They occurred in the course of her representing one of our members,” Filak said.

A pre-disciplinary notice from Bush accused Youngblood, who has been a county employee since March 1980, of insubordination by refusing to comply with the instructions of Lori Murphy, JFS business office administrator, and using threatening language Sept. 25 during a disciplinary meeting concerning another employee.

The notice accused Youngblood of failure of good behavior for purportedly sending Murphy an email in advance of that meeting questioning the need for the sheriff’s department to provide security at the meeting and asking if security is “called for black people only.”

The email asked: “Do you have a rope for lynching in your office?” Youngblood, who is black, was placed on paid administrative leave Sept. 26 pending discipline. Murphy is white.

Bush said the email was “disruptive of the workplace” and racially offensive. “It was conduct and language that is unacceptable in the workplace,” he added.

“It was unprofessional conduct. We can’t tolerate it,” Ditzler said.

“That is not professional writing or speaking,” Righetti said. “We can’t stand for that in the 21st century.”

Filak said the union intends for Youngblood to continue as local president. “She’s been elected by her membership democratically, and it’s our intention to continue her in that role,” he added.

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