November 28, 2014

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Lorain mayor: Relaxed union requirements saved money

Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer talks with Editor Andy Young and reporter Evan Goodenow at The Chronicle-Telegram's office. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Lorain Mayor Chase Ritenauer talks with Editor Andy Young and reporter Evan Goodenow at The Chronicle-Telegram’s office. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

LORAIN — Diluting a local hiring agreement for city projects that included hiring union members hasn’t hurt union companies Mayor Chase Ritenaur said in a Thursday meeting with Andy Young, Chronicle-Telegram editor.

Nine of 11 companies that won bids on Lorain road projects this year — many from outside Lorain County – are unionized.

“They need to compete and when they compete, they can win,” Ritenauer said.

City Council members in March passed an ordinance stipulating 25 percent of workers on city projects of $2 million or more be qualified Lorain or Lorain County residents and 9 percent of residents must be minorities. The ordinance is a diluted version of a 2011 Project Labor Agreement that required 75 percent of workers be locals with 9 percent minorities and stipulated workers unionize during projects, a stipulation removed from the new ordinance.

Union leaders said the original ordinance ensured efficiency, quality and safety, while non-union companies said it was unfair to make their workers pay dues for benefits they wouldn’t receive, since most projects last a few months. Ritenauer, who took office in January 2012, shortly after approval of the original agreement, said the change increased competition and saved taxpayers money. On nearly $29.6 million worth of road projects this year, bids came in at about $25.6 million, saving nearly $4 million that can be spent on future projects.

“Unions have won the super majority of the work that we’ve done, and the taxpayers have gotten a better deal,” he said. “The more bidders, the more pencil-sharpening that goes on.”

Ritenauer also ripped Harry Williamson, president of the Lorain County AFL-CIO and Communications Workers Local 370, and Joe Thayer, former Lorain County AFL-CIO president. Both men, who backed former Mayor Tony Krasienko against Ritenauer in the 2011 Democratic primary, helped get the 2011 agreement passed. Both have been critical of Ritenauer and county Democratic Party leaders.

“The Democratic Party was founded on the principles of organized labor and the middle class,” Williamson said. “That’s not happening in the county at this present time.”

Williamson said he was pleased about the project numbers, but maintained that the agreement change cost local workers jobs. Ritenauer accused Thayer, who couldn’t be reached Thursday, of bad-faith negotiating over changing the agreement.

“Joe Thayer’s mentality is to dictate, not negotiate,” he said.

Ritenauer accused Thayer and Williamson of “scorched earth tactics” that will hurt rank-and-file members. Both Indiana and Michigan have become “right-to-work” states — the laws effectively de-fund unions by removing the automatic withdrawal of union dues from non-union workers at union workplaces – and Ritenauer said Republican Gov. John Kasich will make Ohio a “right-to-work” state if re-elected in 2014.

Ritenauer said heavily Democratic and significantly unionized Lorain County needs to be united to mount a ballot initiative to defeat the law if it passes.

“Their focus is misguided,” he said. “It could cost them.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.


  • Lori Craycraft

    These jobs should be local workers, not out of state or out of county. If we the taxpayers are paying for it, we should benefit from it. More income tax, more spending, helps the economy. Even if it is short term jobs. Doesn’t matter if it is union workers or not, as long as they are qualified.

  • Denise Caruloff

    a great saving to the community….(as it should be). We elect the Mayor to do due diligence for the people..not to preform as a circus clown for the unions or the party.

  • Bob Owens

    Yea, wait til they pose try and pass RTW-this state will REALLY decline.

  • therest_ofthestory

    Is Chase Ritenauer a Republican? He sure talks like one!

    • Denise Caruloff

      I think perhaps he is an independent thinker..and in my book that is A..ok!

  • GreatRedeemer

    How many times have we heard that the skilled work for
    unions and the other guy may not.

    If so they can do more with less and thereby compete. This
    mentality of entitlement has got to go.

  • Mary Kathleen Donovan Springow

    I want to see him come to candidate’s night at the UAW CAP meeting….lol He’ll be asking for the support of labor…..I want to see him try to talk his way out of this one!

    • Conservator440

      I agree. Let’s send in a drone to record the festivities.

    • Larry Crnobrnja

      The UAW talks with forked tongue. Why did the UAW not stand up against all the imports (non union) that Ford, GM and Chrysler brought in that decimated the domestic supply base? Why did the UAW not stand up when the Big 3 started using foreign steel?

      Why didn’t they? Because it was in the UAW’s best interest to sacrifice those American jobs for their own well being. If ya got a stone, feel free to throw it at your own house.

  • Conservator440

    Mayor of Lorain commits heresy. Shall he survive in the union worshiping county of Lorain?

  • d6723

    Do you hear what you are saying? You would prefer to pay more for the same work, to the tune of 4 million. The unions are why Lorain lost ford, american ship, thew shovel, fruehauf trainer, and all the non union shops that supported the bloated union payrolls.

  • d6723

    As far as surviving in the union worshiping city, it is shocking that the sheep can’t see that the union only look out for themselves. Parasites that suck the host till death, the track record is evidence enough, and the 4 million tax dollars that are still in our hands.

    • TheOriginalFactChecker

      What you fail to mention is that because of the implementation of th “only 25% local labor” rule, $19,200,000 could be leaving the city. That’s $19,200,000 that will NOT be circulating in the LOCAL economy and providing Local businesses with $19,200,000 in revenue. Then, when they pay their employees, that $19,200,000 may well be going to other local businesses. This process is called the multiplier effect and benefits local businesses.

      • Larry Crnobrnja

        Was it your intention to be disingenuous? Are you trying to suggest the entire $25,600,000 was for labor and none of it was for materials, equipment rental, fuel, insurance, etc., etc., etc.?

        How’s that for fact checking?

  • d6723

    Do you mean spending wisely without the tax and spend mentality? Or not marching to the orders of the party and unions? Either way I would say yes, how refreshing.