December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Organized labor criticizes county for its union dealings

AFL-CIO and UAW Union members and supporters walk in solidarity to the Lorain County Administration Building for the Lorain County Commissioners meeting on Wednesday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

AFL-CIO and UAW Union members and supporters walk in solidarity to the Lorain County Administration Building for the Lorain County Commissioners meeting on Wednesday. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

ELYRIA — Organized labor leaders on Wednesday criticized Lorain County commissioners and county Administrator Jim Cordes for how they deal with unions.

The biggest complaint was about the county’s ongoing use of the law firm Clemons Nelson, a Dublin, Ohio-based firm that handles contract negotiations and human resources issues for the county.

Joe Thayer, one of the labor leaders, said he thinks the amount of money the county has paid out to Clemons Nelson recently, which he estimated at around $350,000, was too high.

“$350,000 is a lot of money to go to a company that specializes in union busting,” he said.

Thayer suggested that the money would be better spent hiring local attorneys or even additional assistant county prosecutors to handle the issues the county now pays Clemons Nelson to deal with.

But Commissioner Lori Kokoski said that Clemons Nelson has been handling the work for the county for years and losing their institutional knowledge could hurt the county. She also said that using a firm from outside Lorain County avoids politicizing negotiations.

“It’s taking the politics out of it,” she said.

Organizers, including Lorain County AFL-CIO President Harry Williamson, said they were especially concerned about how the county is negotiating a new contract with the United Autoworkers local representing county Department of Job and Family Services employees.

Among the complaints, labor leaders said, is that some supervisors have gone into bathrooms to check on workers if the supervisor feels the worker has been gone too long.

But the commissioners said Cordes addressed that issue last week after labor leaders brought it up at another meeting.

Cordes said after the meeting that the county and UAW are in the fact-finding phase of the negotiations but, because of their confidential nature, he couldn’t discuss specifics.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-714 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.