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Published: 1/9/2009

Toledo workers once again reject revised contract

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Local members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees enter Stranahan Theater to cast their votes for or against a new contract proposal. Local members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees enter Stranahan Theater to cast their votes for or against a new contract proposal.
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For the second time in less than a month, members of the AFSCME Local 7 rejected a contract proposal by the City of Toledo. For the second time in less than a month, members of the AFSCME Local 7 rejected a contract proposal by the City of Toledo.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

For the second time in less than a month, the city of Toledo union representing about 800 workers rejected a new, three-year contract offer yesterday that would have frozen salaries for the first two years and raised premium costs for hospitalization and prescription drugs.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 7, which was given a "last and best offer" on Oct. 28 by the administration of Mayor Carty Finkbeiner, shot down the revised proposed contract.

Union President Don Czerniak said the new offer was worse for the employees than the first one.

The 428-227 vote took place at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd., where a rowdy crowd of union members took turns blasting the city's contract offer. Speaking into a microphone, more than a dozen city workers urged their fellow union members to vote down the contract - drawing cheers and applause.

Other members suggested speaking directly to Toledo City Council in hopes of getting a better contract. Council must approve the agreement after its ratification.

"It includes serious concessions on the part of the union. It is everything from before plus more," Mr. Czerniak said.

The second contract offer included a mandatory five-day furlough in 2009, which would be in addition to at least a five-day layoff without pay for all nonessential city workers ordered by Mayor Finkbeiner.

The contract offer also required new employees to start at 85 percent of the current pay rate with health benefits in accordance with tiered monthly premium co-pays for new employees.

And the city would not pick up any of the new employees' pension share.

Mayor Finkbeiner had intended to hold a news conference last night at the Stranahan but instead released a written statement.

The mayor said three significant events within 24 hours highlighted why many Toledoans feel Toledo's municipal union leaders have no respect for the city's dire financial situation.

"Alan Cox, president of [AFSCME] Local 2058, held a press conference [Wednesday] stating that he had presented the city with a plan that would save $21 million. Absolutely false. His plan was as bogus, in terms of saving money, as a three-dollar bill," the mayor said.

"Second, Toledo Police Patrolman's Association negotiators, [Wednesday], asked for a contract calling for a double-digit increase in pay over three years. That pay raise would virtually force the layoff of all

Local 7 and 2,058 employees, if it were granted."

The third example he cited were Local 7 members being greeted at Stranahan by other Toledo union members who passed out pamphlets urging them to vote against the contract.

"This is in violation of fair labor practices, and did a great disservice to Local 7 AFSCME, and City of Toledo leaders who had negotiated a fair agreement," Mr. Finkberiner said. He said the city's law department would file unfair labor practice charges against the members of the unions who "blatantly interfered with today's voting process."

The mayor also hinted that the Local 7 rejection would mean more layoffs.

"We will soon have fewer workers than we had a year ago, due to a few union leaders, who refuse to recognize the grave economic conditions we are confronted by," he said.

The agreement would have frozen salaries for two years and increased pay 2 percent in the third year. The city's proposal asked Local 7 members to pay a monthly medical co-payment of $25 for single members, $40 for a single plus one person, and $55 for a family.

The previous no vote on Dec. 17 gave the union leaders the authorization to issue a 10-day strike notice, Mr. Czerniak said, but they did not. He said the union members were willing to make concessions but wanted guarantees there would be no more layoffs.

Before the votes were counted yesterday, Robert Reinbolt, Mayor Finkbeiner's chief of staff, was confident the contract would be ratified.

Mr. Reinbolt said the 2009 proposed budget does not allow for employee pay raises. The city had to slash $21 million in spending for 2009 - putting some basic services on the chopping block and canceling plans to hire new police officers and firefighters.

He said the city would expect the same concessions from its other unions.

Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, said he would not have endorsed the Local 7 contract offer.

The patrolman's union has been in negotiations with the city since its contract expired Dec. 31.

"We have had very limited discussions," Mr. Wagner said. "I have been trying since May of '08 to get the city to sit down with us and just recently they have sat down with us."

He declined to discuss his negotiations with the city.

Contact Ignazio Messina at:

imessina@theblade.com

or 419-724-6171.



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