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Published: Tuesday, 7/22/2008

32 lawmakers urge Juvenile Court judge to resume talks with UAW

Rep. Matt Szollosi (D., Oregon) speaks at a news conference encouraging Juvenile Court Judge Denise Cubbon to resume contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers. (THE BLADE/HERRAL LONG)
Rep. Matt Szollosi (D., Oregon) speaks at a news conference encouraging Juvenile Court Judge Denise Cubbon to resume contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers. (THE BLADE/HERRAL LONG)
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Thirty-two state legislators, including state Sen. Theresa Fedor (D., Toledo) and House Democratic leader Joyce Beatty (D., Columbus), are calling on Lucas County Juvenile Court Judge Denise Cubbon to resume negotiations with the UAW over a bargaining contract for her employees.

The 32 Democratic state legislators, including state Rep. Chris Redfern (D., Catawba Island), the Ohio Democratic Party chairman, lent their names to a letter penned by Rep. Matt Szollosi (D., Oregon) to Judge Cubbon yesterday.

"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 raises, competitive benefits and improved working conditions," the letter states.

Judge Cubbon, after weeks of contentious negotiations, rescinded the United Auto Workers' permission to organize within her staff in June.

Ohio law does not require judges to recognize unions, but in 2006, Judge Cubbon and then-Judge James Ray agreed to recognize the union, after a majority of staff voted to union-ize through a card count.

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

Mr. Redfern said he was becoming involved in the issue 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."

Cubbon Cubbon

Yesterday, Mr. Szollosi joined state Rep. Edna Brown (D., Toledo), Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo), and Rep. Kenny Yuko (D., Richmond Heights) at a news conference.

"We're just asking Judge Cubbon to open the lines of communication, and hopefully bring this issue to a close," Mr. Szollosi said.

Mr. Ujvagi said he hoped the Labor-Management-Citizens Committee could step in and resolve the situation.

"I think that would be to the benefit of Toledo and the benefit of the workers," he said.

The LMC is headed by representatives from local labor, management, and citizen representatives. Funded mostly through taxpayers, it serves as a free mediation service.

Its future has been jeopardized as the city of Toledo pulled about half its funding. It voted to disband in May but has stayed alive through individual donations from the University of Toledo, the city of Sylvania, and the Lucas County Commissioners.

Juvenile court representatives were not available to comment late yesterday afternoon.

In an earlier release, Judge Cubbon said proposed salary increases would have cost the court as much as $2 million over three years, and could force her to lay off workers.

She also claimed the union and the Lucas County commissioners, who helped negotiate for the court, wouldn't outline the details of the agreement, and that Commissioner Pete Gerken in particular had agreed to a figure without consulting the juvenile judge.

The union has countered that Judge Cubbon refuses to meet face-to-face with the commissioners or union negotiators.

The UAW's statewide political action committee has donated thousands of dollars to the county commissioners, as well as many state representatives.

Mr. Szollosi received $10,000 from the state PAC for his 2008 re-election effort, while Sen. Theresa Fedor received $2,000 in 2006.

Contact Alex M. Parker at: aparker@theblade.com or 419-724-6107.

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