Saturday, October 4, 2003

Election workers won't have union

Compromise averts Lucas Co. action

John Seewer
The Associated Press

TOLEDO - Election workers in Lucas County won't be joining a union - at least not now.

The county's 11 election clerks were seeking to be the first in Ohio to unionize.

A compromise plan worked out Friday scuttled a potential vote over whether to allow the workers to join Teamsters Local 20.

The deal reached by the Lucas County Board of Elections and the union will set up an independent task force that will hear any job concerns from workers.

The board had planned to vote on the idea, but the Teamsters withdrew their request once the compromise was reached.

"It's a fair compromise because our bipartisanship will remain," said Bernadette Noe, an elections board member and head of the Lucas County Republican Party.

What worried Noe and some others was that the clerks would have been represented by a group that endorses candidates and raises money for political campaigns.

Republicans showed the most concern about keeping out the labor unions, which traditionally have backed the Democratic Party.

Paula Ross, board chairwoman and head of the Lucas County Democratic Party, said she did not think another task force was needed because there already was a citizens panel that could hear workers' concerns.

State law excludes election workers from collective bargaining, but the board could have voted to change that.

Bill Lichtenwald, president of Teamsters Local 20, said he agreed to the compromise because he said it was clear that the proposal to unionize would not have been approved.

The board's two Democrats had expressed support for it while the two Republicans had vowed to vote no.

Lichtenwald said during the meeting that he was upset by accusations that allowing election workers to unionize could lead to more scrutiny and questions about fairness. "That's an insult to these employees," he said. "Just because they become Teamsters doesn't mean the next day they become felons."

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