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Published: Wednesday, 8/25/2010

Teamsters send angry message by removing Sarantou sign from headquarters

BY TOM TROY
BLADE POLITICS WRITER

One day after Mr. Sarantou joined nine other councilmen in voting down a fact finder's report for a contract with Teamsters Local 20, his large sign in front of the union's headquarters on the Anthony Wayne Trail disappeared.

Mr. Sarantou, a Republican, is running for county commissioner, against Democrat Carol Contrada, a Sylvania Township trustee.

Bill Lichtenwald, president of Local 20, said the union's political action committee officially hasn't endorsed yet and he was allowing Mr. Sarantou to post his sign as a courtesy because the union endorsed Mr. Sarantou in three other elections.

"I didn't personally take his sign down, but I imagine one of the city workers probably did," Mr. Lichtenwald said. "They're very angry."

Campaign finance records at the Lucas County Board of Elections show the Teamsters gave Mr. Sarantou's commissioner campaign $100 on March 19 and $500 on April 30.

Mr. Lichtenwald said the union's political action committee is to meet in two weeks and is expected to interview Mr. Sarantou and Ms. Contrada.

He acknowledged that Ms. Contrada may get more favorable consideration in light of Mr. Sarantou's rejection of the fact finder report. "We'll probably look at her a little tighter," Mr. Lichtenwald said.

He said the union took some heat from the city's police and firefighter unions in the first place for allowing Mr. Sarantou's sign to go onto its headquarters lawn after Mr. Sarantou joined with other councilmen in voting for the "exigent circumstances" ordinances

March 30.

Those measures gave the mayor authorization to break contracts with city unions and impose concessions to prevent a $48 million deficit this year.

Mr. Sarantou said he doesn't know whether the Teamsters' endorsement is lost.

"We'll wait and see what the political action committee does in September. I think that my vote certainly was a factor in that, based upon the fact that they've endorsed me in the past for public office," Mr. Sarantou said. "I respect their point of view. My decision was based on what I thought was best for the citizens of Toledo. That contract was one the city can't afford."

Ms. Contrada said she had talked to Mr. Lichtenwald a couple of weeks ago about the upcoming endorsement process and said she wanted to be interviewed if there is an opportunity. She declined comment on the removal of Mr. Sarantou's large sign, and said she couldn't take a position on the fact finder's report because she hasn't read it.

A Teamsters' endorsement is welcomed because of the union's "dawn patrol" operation that sends members out early on Election Day to post candidate signs in polling places and the campaign's campaign contributions, not to mention the votes that are swayed by the union's backing.

Mr. Sarantou was not alone in risking the Teamsters' wrath. Mayor Mike Bell, who pressed council to reject the report, received $18,550 from Teamsters sources during his run for mayor in 2009, according to campaign finance reports.

Although the report granted some of the city's requests in negotiations, city officials contended it was tilted too far toward the union side and failed to recognize the city's financial straits. The union ratified the report Saturday, although the city said the action was moot.

The fact finder advocated a raise of about 2 1/2 percent over three years and a $3 increase in the base hourly rate for refuse drivers to just more than $21 an hour to compensate for losing the bonuses under the manual method of collecting trash that has been replaced by automation.

The fact finder denied the city's request to require the Teamsters union to give up its independent medical-insurance plan that costs the city about $300 more per employee per month for about the same benefits.

The fact finder also refused to require Teamster employees to start paying their full 10 percent share of the pension contribution. The city pays 8.5 percentage points, in addition to the employer's 14.5 percent share.

For the city, the fact finder reduced the number of paid holidays to 13 from 15 and eliminated the practice of allowing workers to knock off work as soon as the trash was picked up.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.



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