Ohio county workers walk

WARREN, Ohio – A rally was held here Nov. 3 in support of 55 members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3808 who went out on strike Oct. 22.

The workers, staff of the Trumbull County Child Support Enforcement Agency (CSEA), are striking over many issues, including health benefits and layoffs.

CSEA is funded with state money managed by the county. County commissioners cited budget constraints as their reason for signing off on the tentative agreement.

“The commissioners need to remember where they came from,” said Debbie Bindas, president of the Trumbull County Federation of Labor. Three county commissioners, Jim Tsagaris, Mike O’Brien and Joe Angelo, were elected with the help of labor’s endorsement.

“Labor won’t forget!” said Sue Joyce, vice president of Local 3808.

Ten points were being considered in contract negotiations. The state mediator has recommended seven of the ten points in the county’s favor, including a two-year wage freeze.

A tentative agreement was reached on Oct. 18, but commissioners then reneged on the agreement. They want the union to agree to a ten percent co-payment on health insurance, even though health care had not been on the bargaining table.

The county says it can no longer afford the present plan, and that they are shopping around for a better package. However, they have yet to name a provider. “You don’t know what you’re getting. We’re not going to commit ourselves to an unknown figure,” Joyce said.

Earlier in the year, the state found a $600,000 error in the county’s books in which money earmarked for the CSEA budget went somewhere else. This resulted in twelve layoffs back in August. At the same time, the county retained three managers, leaving the department top-heavy, with a worker to boss ratio of more than 4 to 1.

According to Bob Kane, president of the local, it costs the county $150,000 per year to keep the three bosses on as opposed to keeping twelve workers on for $250,000 per year. “They should be gone,” he said.

When asked how the missing funds are to be accounted for, AFSCME staff representative Mark Carlson said, “That’s the county’s problem. Our job is to make sure it doesn’t come out of the worker’s pockets.”