Children’s Services workers at Montgomery County could go on strike soon after contract negotiations with the county broke down early this week. Children’s Services facilitates foster care and adoption and works with abused and neglected kids and their families. About 230 county workers with the Professional Guild of Ohio (PGO) Council 12 are asking for higher pay increases than the county is willing to offer, and more than 100 protested at a county commission meeting Tuesday.
“Many of our members have a difficult time taking care of their families, they’re coming to work every day, and I believe some of them probably have to choose between medicines and food for their own kids, and that just isn’t right,” says Joe Atkinson, an adoption placement caseworker with the county who’s been doing casework for 26 years. He says most Children’s Services employees have college degrees and make less than other professionals with similar education and experience, despite working extremely strenuous and sometimes dangerous jobs. “We’re happy to make the sacrifices for other people’s families but we need to care for our own families.”
PGO negotiators have asked for 4 percent pay raises for three years; the county has offered 2.5 percent raises for two years, followed by a new contract negotiation in 2016. Atkinson says pay raises don’t cover the growing costs of health care premiums, and that the county has given far larger raises to management. PGO Council 12 members voted to authorize a strike, although the county hasn't reported yet receiving notice of one.
County leaders say wages for children’s services workers are competitive with other parts of Ohio, and that they are trying to be fair to all parties. The county says it hired a consultant to study competitive wages for management and based changes in pay on that study. WYSO was not able to record a comment from county administrator Joe Tuss before this story aired. As of Thursday morning there was no new information about whether negotiations will resume.
Lewis Wallace is WYSO's economics reporter and substitute morning host. Follow him @lewispants.