Union: Montgomery County child welfare workers denied legal right to strike

The union representing Montgomery County’s child welfare workers claims its strike last month was illegally halted by a judge.

The Professionals Guild of Ohio filed a counterclaim Sunday against Montgomery County Children Services in Common Pleas Court arguing the court lacks jurisdiction and Judge Richard Skelton erred by halting a legal strike by the workers.

The union has a statutory right to strike that is protected by state law, PGO’s attorney James Melle argues in the counterclaim.

MORE: County, union divide grows in Children Services dispute

PGO is asking that the case be dismissed and is seeking more than $25,000 in damages for its members, plus attorney fees.

Children Services workers went on strike July 19, an action immediately followed by a temporary restraining order by signed off on by Skeleton that sent workers back to their jobs. On July 21, State Employment Relations Board determined the strike presented a clear and present danger to children, and Skelton extended the order for 60 days, then ordered the sides to three negotiating sessions.

The PGO, which represents about 270 of the county’s child welfare workers, has 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.

Last month, Joyce Carter, the county’s director of human resources, said the last offer made to PGO was a 3% percent raise across-the-board, a 1% range adjustment and a $500 lump sum equivalent to approximately an additional 1%.

Chauncey Mason, PGO’s executive director, said the local union had earlier taken a vote — which won by a two-thirds majority — to reject an offer of 4% and any subsequent offers that didn’t go higher.

MORE: Children Services strike would be Ohio’s second in 15 years, since one in Butler County

Workers in the union handle abuse and neglect cases for about 2,000 children.

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