Striking Children Services union wants to head back to negotiations

A look at the impact of the Children Services strike

Montgomery County Children Services union workers went on strike over the weekend, and about two dozen of the nearly 270 striking workers were picketing outside the offices Monday morning.

Professionals Guild of Ohio (PGO) represents Montgomery County child welfare workers who handle abuse and neglect cases for about 2,000 children.

Union workers officially went on strike at 9 a.m. Sunday.

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The union asked for a 6% wage increase consistent with one the county recently gave workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, according to PGO Executive President Chauncey Mason.

“We are looking for a fair contract that includes all of our workers getting a 5% raise, not just who the county wants to give a raise to,” Mason told this news organization Monday morning. “They are pitting the younger workers against the older workers, and that is not fair.”

Mason said that he is hoping the county will get back to the negotiation table soon and make a deal.

“That is what we would like to see happen,” he said. “I know the discussion also included differences over no-reprisal language, but we are willing to work through that and look out for our workers if we feel that they are being unfairly disciplined as a result of exercising their rights.”

County spokeswoman Brianna Wooten addressed the strike Friday afternoon, saying that the county worked tirelessly and negotiated in good faith.

“We did make a generous offer of 5% for all of our employees,” she said. “To be clear, it would be unfair to our taxpayers to offer more."

Wooten said the case workers are among the highest-paid in the state and tops in the region.

She explained that opening up negotiations again soon did not seem like a possibility following the final offer.

The union went on strike in July, but Montgomery County sought a temporary injunction that Common Pleas Judge Richard S. Skelton granted.

The 60-day injunction expired Sunday.

Last week, union members voted to reject the last contract offer from the county. After the rejection, representatives from the union and county met on Friday with Skelton, who urged both sides to settle the contract dispute.

When negotiations began nearly seven months ago, the union wanted a 6% increase for all its workers. The county originally offered a 1.5% increase, but later changed it to 2% and 4%. The final offer was for 5%, retroactive to April 1.

Members last Wednesday voted to reject the last contract offer from Montgomery County. Union leaders said top-scale earners would not get a 5% raise to base pay but instead a lump-sum payment.

Children Services workers are under contract through March 31, 2020, but the agreement included a “re-opener” clause to negotiate wages for the third and final year of the contract.