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Teamsters file grievance over road work by Mahoning County inmates

Published: Sat, March 8, 2014 @ 12:10 a.m.

Ditzler praises effort by engineer, sheriff to swiftly fill potholes

By Peter H. Milliken



The chairman of the Mahoning County commissioners praised the county engineer and sheriff for their efforts to swiftly address the public safety hazard posed by numerous potholes brought on by the severe winter and recent freezing and thawing.

Commissioner David Ditzler said, however, their use of day-reporting sheriff’s inmates to help fill the potholes should have been discussed in advance with Teamsters Local 377, which has filed a grievance concerning the use of free labor by the inmates.

The Teamsters union represents the engineer’s road-maintenance staff, which regularly performs this work.

Kristin N. Barrett, special projects coordinator in the engineer’s office, said the inmates were working with the road crews Friday.

County Engineer Patrick Ginnetti could not be reach for comment Friday.

“The main concern is probably that you don’t have anyone laid off or people losing work over it with someone else doing their job,” Ditzler said of the grievance.

Ditzler said the engineer’s management first will try to resolve the matter with the Teamsters. If they can’t, the matter will go to arbitration, he added.

Overtime costs this winter have “just drained Pat Ginnetti’s budget,” Ditzler said.

“I think it’ll all be worked out,” the commissioner said, adding he doesn’t see much difference between using inmate labor and the regular use of summer workers paid to cut grass for the engineer’s office.

“You’re not going to be able to put a second crew on afternoon turn and pay the Teamsters time and a half to address the situation more quickly because you don’t have the money to do it,” Ditzler said of the pothole problem.

Rich Sandberg, Local 377 president, had said earlier he wished his union had been consulted before the inmates were assigned to pothole-filling duty in late February. Had the union been consulted, an agreement might have been worked out, he said.

Sandberg said the union is wary of free labor that might displace union members. He declined to comment further.

When the inmates first started filling potholes, Ginnetti said he believes using them does not violate the Teamsters’ contract and that the use of the inmates is not intended to replace his department’s current staff.

Ginnetti said he wanted to save taxpayers money and repair more of the “extremely damaged roadway system without spending more of our already stressed overtime budget.”

Sheriff Jerry Greene said — as far as he knows — no jobs or overtime hours have been taken away from union members by the inmates.

The sheriff said he’d participate in the project as long as Ginnetti is willing to participate and no ruling has been made that would stop it.

“It’s between the engineer and his union,” Greene said of the dispute. “I understand why they filed the grievance. They’re just protecting their position.”

Greene said the day-reporting program provides a way for nonviolent offenders to serve their sentences and help the county, while freeing jail beds to be occupied by violent criminals.


1NoBS(2506 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Yes, extraordinary actions are warranted because of the number of roads in deplorable condition, but how hard would it have been for Ginnetti to have contacted the Teamsters first, before bringing in outside labor?

Ginnetti's job includes working with unions - it's shameful that he never bothered to even do them the courtesy of letting them know what was transpiring. He - Ginnetti - failed to do his job. That's irrefutable.

Ginnetti's subsequent claim that he doesn't believe bringing in what amounts to day labor violates the Teamsters' contract is the statement of a fool. Of course it violates their contract. And they're right to be upset over this mishandling of the situation. What would Ginnetti do if someone showed up and did his job for him, for free? Would he be the slightest bit concerned? Would he react well to someone saying they didn't think bringing in someone to do Ginnetti's job for him wasn't any kind of threat to his job?

Think, people!! Labor contracts exist for a reason. Rember, Labor does not create unions - Management does.

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2author50(1121 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Maybe Sheriff Greene could hire out the non-violent criminals as designated drivers for those who have had one to many.

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3silentgrandpa(22 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

It seems rich sandberg doesn't care that people in our county may get into an accident or do damage to their vehicle because of these potholes. All he cares about is that those men who are doing the work are not union members who do not pay union dues. I belonged to a union all of my working days and am ashamed of the greedy actions of this man who has no regard for the safety of other people. This is prime example why people don't like unions

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4redeye1(5406 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

I haven't been able to figure out who the biggest offenders are in this story. The guys (prisoners) trying to help out or the union thugs. My bet its the union thugs. At least the prisoners are doing something productive.

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5Roger_Thornhill(991 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

So next contract the Engineer should stand firm and demand that contract allow for the use of inmate labor.

If union refuses, let them go on strike.

Then everyone will see how unimportant these union brothers and sisters really are.

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6jwhitehawke(109 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

There's over 2 million inmates sitting on their ass costing taxpayers over 40 billion a year. Over half of them are physically able to do menial labor, They can pay for their incarceration by performing some sort of work that benefits the community. There are a number of benefits from inmate work programs, including enhanced institutional security, reduced recidivism for inmates, an available workforce for business, lower public service costs for taxpayers, and finally, increased economic output for society.
This 'closed shop' whining when providing rehabilitation and responsibilities to non violent inmates is nothing more than unions flexing control and artificial power, which may soon be quashed.

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7Jerry(766 comments)posted 1 year, 11 months ago

Once again......

I pay taxes to maintain the roads in Mahoning County. I pay taxes to pay a County Engineer to manage this activity. I pay taxes to provide a jail for incarcerating criminals in Mahoning County. I pay taxes to pay a Sheriff to manage this activity.

If having inmates fill potholes on the county roads is a cost effective use of my tax dollars, then it should be done. If it is not, then it should not.

The opinion of the union is irrelevant.

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