LORAIN, Ohio – Over 150 city workers and their supporters packed the City Council chambers here on Sept. 23, demanding that the Republican mayor withdraw his attempt to outsource the city’s tax department.

This steel-belt city, hard-hit by plant closings and layoffs, is facing bankruptcy. Mayor Craig Foltin is attempting to blame city workers for the crisis. He stated that city tax revenues were falling short, and could be greatly improved if only the city were to bring in an out-of-town, non-union firm to do tax collection for the city. The firm, RITA, gave a show-and-tell report, promising to add millions of dollars to the city’s coffers.

The audience wasn’t buying it. They were city workers, steelworkers from the Lorain steel works, and numerous other unionists, CWA (communication workers), IBEW (electrical workers), UAW (auto workers), as well as many steel retirees from Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees. Some workers testified, pointing out that private firms and contractors have always promised the world, but then failed to deliver for anyone but themselves.

John Gallo, president of USWA Local 6621, which represents the city workers, spoke on the need to preserve jobs to guarantee a tax base for the city. “We’ve already lost thousands of steel and auto jobs. These are good jobs and we need to keep them in our city,” Gallo said. “They are public jobs and we are the public – we elect you. If outside contractors take over, they are loyal only to their pocket books,” he concluded.

To cheers, the council voted 9-1 to keep the jobs as Lorain public jobs.

The author can be reached at bruce@admiral.cc