It is no secret to any working person that these are tough economic times. Employers, as well as employees, are feeling the effect of the current recession. Public employers, such as cities and counties, haven’t been immune from these burdens.
It’s no surprise then that employers, both public and private, have chosen to engage in tough bargaining with workers’ labor organizations.
The law, however, has created mechanisms whereby employers and their workers can sit down at the bargaining table and negotiate over terms and conditions of employment that they may ultimately find mutually agreeable. It is through bargaining, the exchange of views and arguments, that labor and management can reach common ground. While neither side may necessarily achieve all they want, the system works in a way that enables both sides to moderate their demands in light of the needs of each side of the bargaining table. The product of this fair and frank discussion is a labor contract both sides can live with.
The concept of bargaining in good faith is nothing new. It’s the policy of the federal government as embodied in the National Labor Relations Act as it is administered by the National Labor Relations Board. Insofar as public employees are concerned, the concept of good faith collective bargaining is also the policy of the State of Ohio, as it is reflected in the provisions of Chapter 4117 of the Ohio Revised Code and which is in turn administered by the Ohio State Employment Relations Board.
Against this background, it is disappointing, to say the least, that the City of Toledo has declared war on its unionized work force in order to attempt to remedy its financial difficulties. In this regard, the City has decided that it will unilaterally change the terms of its collective bragaining agreements with a number of unions that represent City workers such as policemen and fire-fighters, in order to obtain financial savings. Rather than sit down with those labor organizations and attempt to engage in sober talks, the City has decided to instead reach some predetermined result without bargaining.
The first salvo was declared when the City decided to unilaterally change health care benefits and providers for its employees working in refuse and waste water treatment, represented by Teamsters Local 20. However, the City under estimated the resolve of the Teamsters to resist these efforts.
The law offices of Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer are proud to have played a part in assisting the Teamsters’ efforts in obtaining injunctive relief against the City’s efforts to undermine the collective bargaining agreement between the City of Toledo and the Teamsters. As reported in the Blade:
Another way the Bell administration had hoped to save money resulted in arguments Monday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court. Teamsters Local 20, which represents city refuse workers, asked the court to stop the city from changing health-care plans as of yesterday. Judge Gary Cook granted the union’s request although an order won’t be filed until today. At issue was the city’s attempt to transfer the 202 union members from their current plan provided by Teamsters Local 20 Health and Welfare Plan and Trust Fund to the City of Toledo Employee Health Benefit Plan. City attorneys said yesterday that the change would mean continued high-quality health-care coverage at a saving of $50,000 a month, equating to $600,000. The union countered that per an arbitrator’s finding in 2007, the city’s window of opportunity to unilaterally make the change had expired. Union attorneys additionally argued that members would be harmed had the city been allowed to make the change because the new, higher deductibles may prevent some members from seeking proper medical care.
We hope that the highest levels of the City of Toledo’s administration will take a more sober assessment of its current financial problems and determine that it cannot hope to achieve unilateral results without assuming an active partnership with its workers and their unions.