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Published: Saturday, 12/20/2008

Concessions or layoffs

THE days are over when labor unions could demand - and usually get - guaranteed jobs in their contracts with local governments.

In these increasingly difficult economic times, that hard fact ought to be obvious to members of Local 7, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which on Wednesday rejected the City of Toledo's "last and best" offer for a new three-year contract.

Likewise, the union won't get much sympathy from the public by resisting co-pays in their generous city-paid insurance plan.

Local 7 members, 78 percent of whom voted against the city's proposal, said they were willing to make some contract concessions but wanted a guarantee of no additional layoffs. City officials correctly refused that demand because, as tax revenue dwindles, it would be irresponsible to commit to something the city might not be able to afford.

The city offer called for freezing the pay of more than 800 city workers for two years, followed by a 2 percent raise. Local 7 members also would be required - for the first time - to make medical insurance co-pays ranging from $25 to $55 a month.

We believe the terms are fair under the circumstances. The alternative is a major layoff, which we would think the union would want to avoid. In this regard, Local 7 seems to be emulating the discredited tactics of the United Auto Workers union, which typically has negotiated higher pay and perks at the long-term expense of more jobs for its members.

As for the comment by Don Czerniak, Local 7 president, that the union wants "to be involved in how the money is being spent," we don't think the union can expect to usurp the authority on spending that belongs to City Council.

Union members and their families represent a large voting bloc, to be sure, but it's still up to the elected representatives of the people of Toledo to determine how city money is allocated.

Right now, we don't think hard-pressed Toledoans are in a mood to be overly generous with the unions. Moreover, a strike against the public at this point would be unconscionable.

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