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Published: Thursday, 7/24/2008

Standing up to intimidation

RATHER than be castigated as anti-union, Judge Denise Cubbon, of Lucas County Juvenile Court, ought to be hailed for her valiant resistance to labor intimidation in the face of a ham-handed attempt by the United Auto Workers to organize her office's employees.

That fact is that Judge Cubbon, a Democrat who was first elected in 2004, is not anti-union. She proved that last year when she agreed to recognize the UAW after a majority of the court's employees signed union cards.

But she rescinded that approval in June after a couple of her family's cars were vandalized after contentious negotiations broke down. In short, she is refusing to back down in the face of the kind of thinly veiled intimidation that thankfully doesn't happen much any more but which still gives unions a bad reputation.

The UAW angrily denies it was behind the vandalism, in which tires on the Cubbon family's cars were flattened. However, the methodical manner in which the vandalism was carried out and the timing of the incident indicate that it was anything but coincidental.

In addition to resisting intimidation, Judge Cubbon is showing good judgment in refusing to be stampeded into accepting a contract with wage increases that could be costly to taxpayers, and which she contends might force her to lay off some workers.

That stance puts her at odds with Commissioner Pete Gerken, who is playing two key roles - one as union advocate and the other as a public official charged with spending taxpayer money wisely. With Mr. Gerken, it is sometimes hard to tell where each of these roles begins and ends, and which side he's on.

In this case, Judge Cubbon cannot be faulted for declining to go along with contract terms she says were agreed to by Mr. Gerken without advance consultation with her.

No doubt about it, a contract with juvenile court division employees would be a foot in the courthouse door for the UAW. It would be the first union contract for any division of the county's Common Pleas Court.

In these tough economic times, however, more attention must be paid to the burden placed on taxpayers by the ever-increasing demands of public-employee unions.

Toledo may be a "union town," but we are confident that a majority of discerning residents support Judge Cubbon for her thoughtful and courageous stand.

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