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State board: Striking Montgomery County children’s services employees must return to work

Published: Sunday, July 21, 2019 @ 6:24 PM
Updated: Monday, July 22, 2019 @ 6:07 AM

State board orders social workers back to work

The State Employment Relations Board on Sunday decided that a strike by Montgomery County Children Services workers is a clear and present danger — a ruling that will at least temporarily send workers back to the front lines of helping thousands of neglected and abused kids.

“SERB finds that the potential harm would be too great not to declare that the strike by employees of the employer presents a clear and present danger under (state law,)” the board determined. It noted that in 2018 there were 16 child fatalities in Montgomery County and 12 so far this year.

RELATED: State board to rule on strike

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Representatives of the union and county declined to comment after the ruling.

The next step in the labor dispute is for Montgomery County to ask the court to seek up to a 60-day extension of the 72-hour injunction that halted the strike. During an extended injunction, talks are expected to continue between labor and management.

Related: Montgomery County child welfare workers strike for the first time

Attorneys for Montgomery County told the three-member SERB that having 28 supervisors take over the work of 172 case workers means crucial help won’t be rendered to children who are being abused or neglected.

“There will be children who will not be seen when they need to be seen,” said attorney Nadia Klarr.

Roughly three-quarters of the 270 employees represented by the Professionals Guild of Ohio are case workers. Child protective services investigates and monitors foster case and adoption cases for more than 2,000 children in the county’s child welfare system. They also screen 10,000 reports of abuse and neglect each year, half of which merit further investigation, Klarr said.

Klarr said the children in the welfare system are vulnerable, in danger and cannot care for themselves. The strike “presents a formula for disaster,” she said.

James Melle, attorney for the union, called that speculation and said asking SERB to declare a clear and present danger is designed to kill the strike. “The only legitimate tool that the union has to move this case, move the wages in their direction is to strike,” he said.

He noted that not all bargaining unit members left work and said some number crossed the picket line on Friday morning to continue working.

Just hours after the strike began Friday, Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Skelton issued a 72-hour temporary restraining order, shutting down the strike by the Professionals Guild of Ohio. That TRO expires at 10:09 a.m. Monday.