Thursday, October 16, 2003

Township rejected in appeal on firing

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

PIERCE TWP. - The Ohio 12th District Court of Appeals has sided with a group of former township employees who contend they were fired three years ago in violation of fair labor laws after trying to form a union.

"I'm so happy. I'm so excited because - again - this means we were right," said Faith Doty, one of the former employees.

Township attorney Ronald L. Mason said township leaders were disappointed with the decision and have 30 days to decide if they will appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court.

This is the third time a decision in this case has gone against the township.

Shortly after their jobs were eliminated in December 2000, the workers filed a complaint with the State Employment Relations Board.

At the time of the initial complaint the township had a volunteer fire department.

Despite being trained as firefighters and emergency medical workers, Doty, Dene Riggenbach and Joe Tvrdy also did maintenance work for the township, such as mowing lawns. They were trying to form a union when they were let go.

Pierce Township, however, contended that it let the workers go because it could save money by having the maintenance work done by a private firm.

The township also switched to a full-service fire department, hiring full- and part-time firefighters and emergency medical workers.

The state board found that Pierce Township had engaged in unfair labor practices and ordered the township to hire back the workers, giving them comparable positions at the same wage, along with back pay.

The township appealed the decision to Clermont County's Common Pleas Court. But Judge Robert Ringland also determined that Pierce Township had committed an unfair labor practice and terminated the employees only because they tried to start a union.

E-mail mmccain@enquirer .com

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