Tuesday, July 22, 2008

32 State reps tell judge to let union into court

The Blade story is here, but I have a copy of the actual letter and find it very interesting that state reps from around Ohio found it necessary to tell a Lucas County juvenile court judge what to do.

Have these representatives even been in Lucas County or met Judge Denise Cubbon? And what makes them qualified to tell the judge what to do?

Local representatives who have their name on the letter include Matt Szollosi, Edna Brown, Peter Ujvagi and Senator Teresa Fedor. Interestingly, only Matt Szollosi's signature is on the letter. Szollosi signed all the other names, including his initials in parentheses after the name. If these state reps were so convinced that this is the right thing to do, don't you think they would have taken the time to actually sign the letter themselves?

State Democratic Party Chairman and representative from Catawba, Chris Redfern, said he was involved "because he believes it affected people outside Lucas County."

"I would encourage [Judge Cubbon] to think beyond the impact that her decision will have in the courtroom and think about the community, and I think regionally," Mr. Redfern said. "Having organized labor members can be very positive for a community."

Perhaps Redfern missed the fine print about the costs of this agreement - an additional $2 million over the three-year term of the proposed contract. I wonder how he justifies this as being 'positive for the community'?

The letter to Judge Cubbon:

It is our collective understanding that the employees of the Lucas County Juvenile Court have voted overwhelmingly to form a bargaining unit with representation by the UAW. It is our further understanding that the Court has since reversed its position which initially allowed these employees to organize, putting an abrupt end to any further negotiations, and any hopes that those working men and women will receive the benefits they are seeking through union membership.

The purpose of this letter is to encourage you to, at the very least, resume good faith negotiations so that Court employees achieve a contract with fair wages, competitive benefits and improved working conditions.

Obviously, having granted your employees the right to organize last year, you respected their desire to bargain for improved terms and conditions of employment. Especially in tough economic times, negotiations can prove difficult. However, we have confidence that with renewed efforts, the parties involved can reach satisfactory compromise.

We urge you to reconsider your decision to rescind the employees' rights to organize, and to once again open the lines of communication so that this issue can be brought to a close. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Let's take the points one at a time:

* the employees didn't 'vote' ... they signed cards. They have no 'right' under Ohio law to organize, as judicial employees are specifically exempted from collective bargaining.

* the court employees have good wages, and as a former county commissioner, I know because I voted on their budget. Their wages are competitive with other courts and are certainly competitive with private sector earnings.

* the court employees have highly competitive benefits. As county employees, they have the county health insurance, the county life insurance, drug cards, health coaches, vision coverage and dental coverage. They have the same vacation and holiday schedule as the rest of the county. These benefits are much more generous than the private sector which pays for these benefits.

* they want 'improved working conditions' and I can only wonder what improvements they might want? Better chairs and desks? More amenities in the break room? Are such 'conditions' attainable without a union?

* they want to open lines of communication so the 'issue can be brought to a close.' In case you missed it, the issue is closed. Judge Cubbon rescinded the permission to organize - it's over. Just because they don't like the outcome, they're trying to put political pressure on the judge to change her mind. (I hope the UAW has as much success as the defendants in her court do after she's banged the gavel.)

The names on the letter:

Matt Szollosi
Edna Brown
Tracey Heard
Clayton Luckie
Brian Williams
John Otterman
Ron Gerberry
Lorraine Fende
Jay Goyal
Steve Driehaus
Fred Strahorn
Steven Dyer
Matt Lundy
Bob Hagan
Tom Letson
Dan Dodd
Linda Bolon
Joyce Beatty
Chris Redfern
Eugene Miller
Michael DeBose
Michael Foley
Jennifer Brady
Kenny Yuko
Peter Ujvagi
Armond Budish
Barbara Boyd
Sandra Williams
Michael Skindell
Timothy DeGeeter
Dan Stewart
Sen. Teresa Fedor

I cannot help but wonder if any of these people talked to Judge Cubbon before making a decision about this letter - or if they just trusted what either the UAW or another state rep told them? It would certainly be interesting to call them all and find out.

I also wonder how much these state reps got in campaign donations from the UAW, as that certainly seems to be a contributing factor. According to the paper, "Mr. Szollosi received $10,000 from the state PAC for his 2008 re-election effort, while Sen. Theresa Fedor received $2,000 in 2006." The three county commissioners, at last count, got about $119,000 combined. In checking the Secretary of State's website, I found the following contributions listed from UAW PAC LA435 in Maumee, OH:

Teresa Fedor: $7,500 in 2006
Linda Bolon: $2,000 in 2006
Michael Foley: $1,500 in 2006
Jennifer Brady: $1,500 in 2006
Kenny Yuko: $1,500 in 2006
Peter Ujvagi $350 in 2006
Armond Budish: $1,500 in 2006
Barbara Boyd: $1,500 in 2006
Sandra Williams: $5,500 in 2006
Michael Skindell: $1,500 in 2006
Timothy DeGeeter: $300 in 2006
Brian Williams: $500 in 2006
John Otterman: $500 in 2006
Jay Goyal: $1,000 in 2006
Steve Driehaus: $2,500 in 2006
Matt Lundy: $2,500 in 2006
Bob Hagan: $11,000 in 2006
Tom Letson: $1,000 in 2006

Perhaps the UAW is resorting to pressue from other elected officials because their campaign to get the public to tell the judge to reconsider went no where? Seems the UAW is getting their money's worth, I just don't know if it will have any impact on Judge Cubbon.


Robin said...

I really can't say that this letter can be all that influential, if one person signed it and then signed everyone else's name to it.

Why do county employees need to be unionized, anyway?

Tim Higgins said...


If only our state legislators would get as interested in other things going on in Lucas County!

While the list of signers is significant (we will remember), it is neither impressive nor a majority of the 132 members of the legislative houses of Ohio.

We can only hope however, that the judge in this case, apparently unlike the legislators, continues to act on principle and not arm-twisting.

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