Unions protest 2 city council hopefuls

Martinez, Sykes catch target of major local unions

Toledo City Council candidates Adam Martinez, right, and Larry Sykes.
Toledo City Council candidates Adam Martinez, right, and Larry Sykes.

Representatives of most of the major local unions attacked two Toledo City Council candidates Tuesday, saying the pair have not supported unions and the working class.

About 40 union leaders and members gathered outside the Toledo Public Schools administration building on Manhattan Boulevard to speak out against incumbent Adam Martinez, who is running for re-election to city council, and Larry Sykes, a Toledo Board of Education member also running for council.

The unions have beefs with each candidate: Mr. Martinez voted for exigent circumstances and another vote led to the privatization of the city’s trash collection, and Mr. Sykes pushed to privatize food service in Toledo Public Schools and he claimed on a union endorsement-screening questionnaire that he supported Right to Work legislation.

While the complaints were different, the unions said both men had turned their backs on the working class. The group held signs outside the building advocating for hiring locally and chanted “OH-IO, outsourcing has got to go.”

Both candidates rejected the criticisms.

Mr. Sykes said he opposes Right to Work legislation and that the unions are misrepresenting him.

He said his answer on the questionnaire meant he supports everyone’s right to work, a reference to nondiscrimination policies, not the proposed legislation. Mr. Sykes publicly opposed Senate Bill 5, standing with the Rev. Al Sharpton at a rally during the campaign. The Republican-passed collective bargaining law galvanized Ohio unions, and voters rejected it in 2011.

“If they want to misconstrue what I said, that’s on them,” Mr. Sykes said.

He wouldn’t comment on the food-service complaints. Union leaders, such as Jean Ford from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, said Mr. Sykes had pushed for a takeover of food service that would lead to the loss of jobs and pay for TPS employees. Mr. Sykes has said no TPS employee would lose his or her job or compensation under the proposal.

Mr. Martinez said he supported exigent circumstances because he thought laying off city employees was not a viable option. He said he comes from a strong union family and opposed Senate Bill 5.

The exigent-circumstances ordinances gave Mayor Mike Bell the power to cut city employee wages and benefits without negotiations.

“It was one of the hardest decisions I had to make, and it wasn’t done lightly,” Mr. Martinez said.

And he said that council didn’t technically privatize trash collections because it turned the service over to the county.

Mr. Martinez was endorsed for re-election by the Lucas County Democratic Party. Party chairman Ron Rothenbuhler said he didn’t ask union leaders not to publicly oppose Mr. Martinez, though he didn’t support the move, either. Sometimes, Mr. Rothenbuhler said, the party and unions don’t agree.

“We endorsed him,” Mr. Rothenbuhler said, “and we are going to stay with him.”

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.