MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ohio (WDTN) – With no progress made in a meeting with state mediators Thursday, more than 270 Children Services caseworkers are expected to hit the picket lines Friday.
Union members emerged from Thursday’s mediation noticeably distraught.
“My biggest fear is that something awful will happen to these children. Because at the end of the day that’s what it is about,” says Montgomery County Caseworker Bianca Hand.
But this is also about what caseworkers like Hand feel is a disconnect between county leaders and workers.
“The smug attitudes of the people who have no idea what we do every day,” she says.
All sides converged at a neutral location with neutral mediators from the state and an independent fact finder, which weeks ago sided with the Professional Guild of Ohio (PGO), only to have Montgomery County reject the findings and opinion.
PGO thinks the county has their heels dug in deep, but the county says they’ve tried to increase their offers from the originally proposed 3 percent wage increase.
Another union that represents nearly 800 county workers received 6 percent raises.
“It’s important to note that the county has moved several times and made our offer more generous each time to negotiate in good faith,” says Brianna Wooten, Communications Director with Montgomery County.
Now, union members will wait on the sideline as the county implements their strike plan.
“Calling foster parents and asking them how they are going to transport these children, is not business as usual,” says PGO President Jane Hay.
She continues, “Over the last week they’ve asked the workers to complete the rest of the month’s work in a week.”
That request isn’t unheard of, as organizations prepare for striking workers.
County officials say that while the union voted to strike, individual workers are welcome to cross the picket line.
“The employees will have to make that decision for themselves. Nobody is going to be penalized, no retribution for anyone that decides to strike or picket or come back to work at any time,” Wooten said.
As for how the county will keep Children Services running, the union thinks there’s no chance, but the county offered a first glimpse into their plan, saying:
“We are reassigning people from other divisions to provide vital services as well as perhaps providing additional pay for overtime if necessary to certain individuals.”
The union plans to strike starting Friday through the weekend, with no negotiations planned.