Operating Engineers Local 148 suing Franklin County over pay raises for highway department employees

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Operating Engineers Local 148 has filed a federal lawsuit against Franklin County over a 2.5 percent pay raise that was supposed to go to its highway department workers this year.

The employees, represented by Local 148, learned they would be getting the additional 2.5 percent raise on top of their contract’s existing 2.5 percent raise during a Nov. 9 meeting with county officials, who at the time praised the employees for their hard work and dedication.

Two weeks later, Local 148 Business Representative Brad Wooten and the union’s shop stewards met with Highway Administrator Jim Grutsch to hammer out the details and learned there was a “catch.”

“Grutsch provided us with documents and explained that their attorney had informed them that they could not provide the promised raise ‘without getting something in return,’” Wooten said. “The county demanded that the Local 148 membership approve a one-year contract extension in exchange for the wage increase.”

Wooten said union members viewed the move as “bait and switch” tactic because there was no mention of the contract extension in the Nov. 9 meeting, and they rejected the offer by a 92 percent vote. Wooten informed Grutsch of the vote and explained why the offer was rejected.

“A few days later the County came back with the same offer of the raise in exchange for an extension, but the feeling of the membership had not changed,” Wooten said. “If anything, their resolve hardened as a result of the County digging in its heels.”

Afterward, Wooten said the county informed the union that it intended to give the contractually negotiated 2.5 percent raise to the dues-paying members of Local 148 and to give a five percent raise to members of the highway department bargaining unit who do not pay dues despite what the existing collective bargaining agreement states.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that non-union government workers cannot be required to pay union fees as a condition of working in public service. Wooten said of the 47 members of the highway department, only three do not pay union dues and only one of the three took the county’s offer of five percent.

“We are disappointed that once again the Franklin County commissioners are trampling on the right to collectively bargain and trying to break the union with this illegal raise by punishing the dues-paying members of Local 148,” Wooten said. “By giving a raise to some members of the bargaining unit and not others, the county has unilaterally modified the collective bargaining agreement and created a two-tier wage system.”

“The commissioners have been out to break this group of workers for at least four years as they refused to negotiate the last contract, which also lead to a state lawsuit that we won to compel the commissioners to negotiate in good faith and a two year contract,” Wooten said.

One Comment

  • The Citizens in this County need to realize the republicans do not like labor of any type! Get rid of the red in this County! Way too many Union Family’s in Franklin County to take this!


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