Most of Youngstown council against imposing deal on street employees
Most of city council against imposing deal on street employees
YOUNGSTOWN — A majority of Youngstown council members say they will vote against legislation next week that would give the mayor power to declare an “ultimate impasse” in negotiating a contract with the street department union and forcibly impose the city’s “last, best and final offer.”
Council members Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward; Samantha Turner, D-3rd Ward; Mike Ray, D-4th Ward; and Lauren McNally, D-5th Ward, told The Vindicator on Thursday that they don’t support the ordinance sponsored by Mayor Jamael Tito Brown.
Councilwoman Basia Adamczak, D-7th Ward, said she is “leaning toward voting in favor of it.”
Council members Jimmy Hughes, D-2nd Ward, and Anita Davis, D-6th Ward, declined to comment.
Ray and McNally said this was the first time they’ve ever heard of a request by the administration for council to support legislation to impose terms and conditions of employment on a union.
“That’s not negotiating in good faith,” McNally said. “I want to leave the door open on negotiating. I’m a ‘no’ vote. Go back to the bargaining table rather than putting your fist down on the table and making demands.”
McNally said it’s not unusual for there to be disagreements in negotiating union contracts.
“What is uncommon is for one side to say, ‘I’m done,'” she said. “I’m shocked at that. I’m shocked the administration is doing that.”
Ray said: “I wouldn’t be in favor of this legislation. I want the union and the administration to come together. It’s been my experience (in nearly 12 years on council) that the two sides come to an agreement. We’ve never seen one come to us like this. They need to keep working on this.”
Council is to meet Wednesday to consider this legislation. The finance committee will meet Monday to discuss the agenda, including this proposal.
“The sticking point is (the union’s) ability to negotiate which this legislation would take away,” Oliver said “They absolutely should be able to bargain and renegotiate.”
While Oliver wants to discuss the matter with his colleagues, he said he opposes giving Brown that kind of authority.
“If the administration had the power to skip over city council, they’d do it,” Oliver said.
Turner said: “It is the right of the city to not completely agree with the union. I hope the union leadership would come to an agreement that’s fair to both sides.”
She added, “I have to support the union’s decision to not take this offer, and I hope we can come to terms with the union that is amenable to both parties. I would vote no on this.”
Adamczak said the administration “went to great lengths to reach an understanding” with the union and “is willing to continue negotiating. It seems as though it’s fair. I’m leaning toward voting in favor of it.”
The city’s “last, best and final offer” was a 2 percent raise this year and 2.5 annual raises in 2023 and 2024. The raise this year isn’t retroactive. Instead, the proposal calls for a $500 lump sum payment.
The law department on Thursday provided city council with “discussion points” about the contract negotiations. In it, it mentioned the lump sum was offered “as many of the employees’ pay will substantially increase due to the immediate position advancements.”
The previous contract expired Dec. 31.
The union voted 22-1 Monday in opposition to the contract. The final offer was made July 7.
The union’s members will have an informational picket Monday in front of city hall about 90 minutes before the start of council’s finance committee meeting.
The pay increase percentages are in line with what the city has given in new contracts to other unions.
Also, the city proposed raising the hourly wage for an entry-level laborer or driver from the current $13.94 per hour to $16 per hour and increasing it to $16.75 per hour for those who have Class B commercial driver’s licenses.
That would be an increase in starting wages of 14.8 percent and 20.2 percent for those with the specialty license. When the city approved new contracts with the fire and police patrol unions earlier this year, it increased the starting pay by 46 percent and 27 percent, respectively.
While the city made its “last, best and final offer,” Law Director Jeff Limbian said, “The city will always be interested in coming back to the table. We want clear lines of communication and open dialogue.”
He added: “The union has got to start being reasonable.”
The city’s “last, best and final offer” was better than what a fact finder in May ruled in a nonbinding decision rejected by the union that included annual raises of 2 percent and raising the starting salary to $15.75 an hour. The raises and starting salary in the fact finder report were initially proposed by the city.
Wages are an important issue, but those related to staffing levels, vacation time and sick leave “are huge,” said Steven Anzevino, president of Teamsters Local 377, which negotiates contracts for the street department.
Anzevino hasn’t dismissed the possibility of a strike but said that hasn’t been discussed.
The street department currently has 24 employees, including 18 to 19 who can drive snowplows, he said. Seven years ago, that number was 36.
Because of the low staffing level, the city wants to restrict vacation time and remove overtime pay if a street department worker has to report off work because of being sick, Anzevino said.
The city wants to eliminate vacation time during the months of December, January and February — when snow removal is at its highest need — except to permit it when the forecast doesn’t call for snow, Anzevino said. That exception would mean vacation time could only be scheduled a few days in advance, he said.
The current contract also gives discretion to city management for vacation during the rest of the year and with staffing at such low levels, Anzevino said that could mean street department workers wouldn’t get any vacation time or at least have it strictly limited.
The contract reads: “Vacation requests are subject to the operational needs of the employer” and “the city reserves the right to allocate the vacation schedule in order to assure the orderly operation of the department.”
In the law department’s discussion points, it states: “The city cannot willingly abandon its ability to effectively manage the day-to-day operations of the street department in a manner that meets the needs of the people who live and work here.”
The city also requires some street department employees to work 12-hour days for 21 days straight in the winter.
The city wants to eliminate overtime for workers if they take a sick day during a pay period, Anzevino said. Without vacation time and having to work 21 days straight, a worker is bound to be exhausted and if he takes a sick day the overtime is lost, he said.