John Kasich Antiunion worker

I am a firefighter and a Union member. I know it's all the rage to find a Union member that is retiring with millions of dollar and gaming the system. But for most of us that's just not the case. John Kasich will try to "Break the backs of labor unions if elected" Well Unions are people, regular people just trying to get by.

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The Toledo Municipal Strike of 1979: When chaos reigned
Recent layoffs rekindle anxiety that spread as safety forces walked off job 30 years ago

Striking municipal employees blocked Erie Street near the Safety Building. An impasse in contract talks led to what many viewed as an illegal walkout of 3,400 workers.
( THE BLADE )

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By TOM HENRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Thirty years ago, Toledo’s mayor and its City Council members were at an impasse with the city’s police and fire unions — much as they are today.

Back then, the disputes were over pay raises, benefits, and the number of police officers and firefighters assigned to each crew.

The impasse led to what many people viewed as an illegal walkout of 3,400 municipal employees on the morning of July 1, 1979. It occurred during the era of runaway inflation at the end of President Jimmy Carter’s administration, months after Chicago firefighters and Memphis police had gone on strike.

Worse than any of the usual name-calling was a 48-hour gap in public safety that allowed mayhem to rule Toledo streets. Toledo’s strike was believed to be the nation’s first in which both police and firefighters walked out the same day.

Countless blazes were set, including the firebombing of the former Plaza Hotel on Monroe Street across from the Toledo Museum of Art. About $50,000 of city property — much involving vehicles — was trashed.
PHOTO GALLERY
VIEW: the Toledo strike of 1979 photo gallery

Residents armed themselves with shotguns and other weapons. One TARTA bus driver was slain and another was robbed, prompting the agency’s chief to pull all drivers off their routes because he feared for their safety.

Gov. James A. Rhodes, on business in China, contemplated sending the Ohio National Guard to Toledo. Word was sent to him via U.S. Ambassador Leonard Woodcock. Mr. Rhodes was asked by Toledo’s congressman, Thomas L. Ashley, to give the city’s strike “priority attention.”

“Serious violence possible,” said Mr. Ashley’s message, which was sent after a telephone conference with Toledo Mayor Doug DeGood.

Mr. Rhodes was nine years removed from the shootings at Kent State University that occurred after he sent guardsmen to that campus in hopes of quelling Vietnam War protesters.

He didn’t dispatch troops to Toledo — but he did send Maj. Gen. James Clem, the guard’s adjutant general, to assess the situation.

Public confidence was shaken by Toledo’s 48 hours of bedlam.

“There was havoc on the streets,” said Police Chief Mike Navarre, who joined the police force in 1977 and was one of the striking patrolmen.

‘State of anarchy’
J. Michael Porter, Toledo’s city manager at the time, said after the strike that the city would have felt more secure if Mr. Rhodes had at least mobilized the guard.

Mr. DeGood, now an Atlanta-area consultant, said he believes Mr. Rhodes avoided sending troops to Toledo because he “got burned politically” by the Kent State shootings.

“There is absolutely, positively, no doubt in my mind he was not going to send troops to Toledo until half the buildings burned down,” Mr. DeGood said in a phone interview last week.

“Yes, it was directly as a consequence of Kent State that he took the position he took. He was gun-shy after that Kent State thing.”

Lucas County sheriff’s deputies kept as much peace as they could within the city but were overwhelmed.

So were firefighters from 13 surrounding communities who came to Toledo’s aid under an agreement the city had once resisted.

One of several Blade editorials stirred a number of responses from residents, union leaders, and city officials.

Published on the Fourth of July in 1979, just as the city’s arson-induced smoke was settling, it said residents were “still in shock over the totally inexcusable state of anarchy that was sparked solely by the irresponsible actions of Toledo’s striking municipal employees — especially members of the police and fire divisions.”

The newspaper’s editorial board scorned police officers and firefighters for abdicating their duty to protect the public, accusing them of standing pat while chaos ruled.

It contended that a small minority went so far as to encourage — even incite — violence and destruction.

“The public was angry about the fires being set. They were angry their safety was compromised,” Mr. DeGood said.

Tense negotiations
Contract negotiations had begun that spring, with both sides anticipating tense moments as they approached the June 30 expiration of labor contracts.

They were right.

Mr. Porter, the city manager, told council members on June 12 that there was a “realistic possibility of some issues not being settled” by the June 30 deadline.

On June 27, Councilman Andy Douglas — now a retired Ohio Supreme Court justice — said at a Kiwanis Club luncheon that he thought the city was on the verge of a settlement.

Mr. Douglas was known for being tight with police and fire groups, both of which had members in the audience.

Mr. Douglas wrote about the 1979 strike in a 2007 article in the Cleveland State Law Review, a scholarly legal journal published by Cleveland State University’s law school.

He told The Blade Friday that he recalls the events of that era “like it was yesterday.”

“I made it very clear to them we were at the bottom line, that we had no more money,” Mr. Douglas said of his Rotary speech.

“What I said was the matter was near resolution.”

A final offer
The next day, the city said it was issuing its final offer to the unions, one that called for a 2 percent wage increase the first year and raises of 1.5 percent and 1 percent in the subsequent two years.

It also agreed to keep honoring a cost-of-living wage clause the unions had obtained in 1968.

The unions balked. Talks with a federal mediator at the former Hillcrest Hotel failed to produce an agreement.

The unions said they were left with no choice but to strike as of 6 a.m. July 1, something which they were told was forbidden by law.

That didn’t stop them.

At 8 a.m. on Monday, July 2, Mayor DeGood, who was only 32 at the time, collapsed in his office from the stress. He spent the next 24 hours in St. Vincent Hospital, now St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.

Negotiations with the mediator resumed, although they broke off suddenly when four labor leaders fled upon learning Lucas County sheriff’s deputies were about to issue them a summons to appear in court.

At 3:30 p.m., Lucas County Common Pleas Judge George Kiroff convened a hearing on the city’s request for an injunction that would require employees to return to their jobs.

Five hours later, the judge ruled in favor of the city, saying that any union that did not end its strike would be fined $25,000 and each of the striking members would be fined an additional $2,500 a day.

Talks resumed at the Hillcrest Hotel, with the number of arsons and other crimes in the city putting everyone on edge. Negotiations continued through the night and into the morning of July 3.

From the sixth floor of the Hillcrest, Mr. Porter gazed out over a city on fire as negotiations continued. Vandals looted a nearby appliance store.

An article in The Blade reported at least 15 buildings burned to the ground in a one-block area bounded by Bancroft, Linwood, Beacon, and 14th streets on July 2. Linwood, in particular, “looked as though it had been bombed,” the story said.

Mr. Porter emerged from the Hillcrest at 6:15 a.m. July 3 to announce that strikers agreed to return to work.

Death, destruction
The agreement was too late for Robert Maidlow, a 39-year-old TARTA bus driver slain by robbers at 10 p.m. July 2 at Oakwood and Smead avenues.

His family sought $2.1 million from the city, the unions, and TARTA, contending the strike was in violation of the Ferguson Act, which forbid walkouts by public employees.

A visiting judge, Richard McQuade, Jr., of Fulton County Common Pleas Court, ruled in 1981 that those parties could not be held responsible for Mr. Maidlow’s death because the strike — although a deliberate act — was not targeted at any one person.

The firebombing of the Plaza Hotel occurred early in the morning of July 3, hours before the strike ended.

Sixty men overpowered guards on site, seizing their radios and smashing windows of several automobiles while also overturning a van. Firebombs were hurled from a moving truck that the FBI later learned was registered to a member of Plumbers Union Local 50, which was at odds with the Plaza’s owner over the use of nonunion labor in remodeling work.

That same morning, 26-year-old Joseph Minnich was charged with trying to run down firefighter Robert McGreevy with his car shortly after firefighters had returned to work.

Mr. Minnich, angry that he had lost his house in a blaze at 413 Prescott St. during the strike, confronted firefighters when they arrived on his block to extinguish embers from his house and an adjacent one, according to Mr. McGreevy’s testimony at a trial over the incident.

Mr. McGreevy testified that he sprayed water from the fire hose near Mr. Minnich’s feet after being insulted. He said the man got into his car and drove down a sidewalk toward him at a high rate of speed, prompting the firefighter to throw his helmet at the car.

Both men were charged separately, but neither was convicted.

The aftermath
Chief Navarre said he’s sure the Toledo strike was an impetus for stronger collective bargaining laws.

“There was no collective bargaining in Ohio back in 1979. People were frustrated,” he said. “There was no recourse.”

The strike created a rift between employees who crossed picket lines and those who didn’t.

“It wasn’t just external. It was also internal. I know there were a lot of hard feelings [within the police force],” Chief Navarre said.

A poststrike report compiled by a cross-section of labor, management, and citizen leaders cited negotiators’ inexperience as an underlying cause.

The Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association fielded the greenest bargaining team, with none of its six members having experience.

“We had a brand-new manager, a new personnel director, and there was a new team on the other side too,” Mr. Porter said at the time.

Municipal workers felt they were being used by politicians who wanted to further their careers. Union leaders complained about not getting enough access to city financial records.

Shades of 1979
It’s much the same today, with Mayor Finkbeiner and finance officials of his administration saying the city faces a $21.3 million deficit and that city employee unions must agree to wage and benefit cuts to bring the city back into the black. Union leaders say they don’t trust the mayor or the claims he makes about city finances.

Unlike in 1979, Mr. Finkbeiner has laid off 75 police officers and says he’ll lay off 125 more if the police union doesn’t agree to the concessions he’s demanded.

“We had the impression there was money out there,” said Gary Dunn, president of the police union in 1979.

“I’m really disappointed after all of these years that it’s still a political football. Carty is hellbent on digging in his heels and making a point. If they get out of this mess, I don’t know how you kiss and make up. I don’t how you mend fences.”

Mr. Douglas said his Toledo home was picketed during the 1979 strike.

He said people “literally feared for their lives” then — and that they have reason for more anxiety unless Mr. Finkbeiner and the council find a way to repair relations with police and fire employees soon.

“Laying off 75 police officers is just a start. It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said Mr. Douglas, who now lives in Columbus. “I sit and grieve far away about what’s going on in Toledo. Somebody’s got to come up with a solution.”

Contact Tom Henry at:thenry@theblade.com or 419-724-6079.

Permanent Link The Toledo Municipal Strike of 1979: When chaos reigned http://www.toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090510/NEWS02/90... STORY:2009905109997

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When the chips are down...you'll put your union ahead of public safety....

You will walk a picket line while someones house burns.....you arent fit to be called a first responder...

And just so you know...THIS union Man will voluteer to stand gaurd with a shotgun while men of conscious still fight fires in the name of the public good...

Go on strike....see what happens THIS time....

“Political correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.”

I have heard the Republican candidate for govenor say on many occasions that he wants to "break the backs" of labor unions. Who hasn't read about that? He's bad, evil, wants to continue the destruction of the middle class. And I know union firefighters and cops are "just trying to get by," but well paid for the time they watch TV in the fire stations or cruise about town in the squad cars. And I know that before the age of 50, they can cash out and begin collecting monthly, public-paid pension checks of $4,000+. A thousand dollars a week in free money? How could anybody live on that? Hop in the firetruck, drive down to Kroger, grab some food, then go back to the station and kick back and enjoy some football on TV. You guys are the ultimate welfare recipients.

Patience is a great virtue.

Are you out of your mind? My husband is a firefighter (as are my dad and brother-in-law and sister-in-law) . Will he retire at 50? NO! Why? Can't afford it! Will he EVER have $4000 a month in free money? NO!! Why? He doesn't make enough!!! You have got to be the most un-informed person I have ever heard. Look it up. Firefighter salaries (in most places) are closer to minimum wage. Are there some firefighters that are overpaid? Yes. It's up to the municipality where they work. They depend on fire levys for money and if they made too much, you can believe the taxpayers would not pass them. But 99% of firefighters work for a lower salary than you would imagine and they are certainly not in it for the money. Anyone can retire at 50 if they get their 25-30 years in. I really hope you never need them, it would be a shame for them to have to save the life or the property of someone as pathetic as you. You need to shut your mouth because your ignorance is showing.

Compared to the rank and file. Business Agents for unions I'm familiar with make a pretty hefty wage. Maybe you oughta look at your own union heads before blaming others.

In that case, what are corporations?

If a "union" is made up of "people, regular people just trying to get by" doesn't the same hold true for corporations?

Don't blame me,
I didn't vote for a
socialist.

The Unionists are still pulling this line of bullshit that they are just getting by? The median wage in the TPS is $48K for a lousy 9 months of work, plus a benefits package and retirement package that the private-sector worker would kill for. Cops in the TPD make about $50K with some seniority. They also have benefits nearly unheard of in the private sector, and they also retire not after a lifetime of work, but after only a piddling 20 years. Toledoans apply like crazy to get into the firefighters group, so you can't tell me that their compensation isn't equally superb.

The only thing these union twats aren't saying is that they are finding it hard to make ends meet once they load up on huge amounts of debt. Buying that $250K house in P-burg really puts a load on your income. But nobody forced you to take your superb pay and benefits and then move away from Toledo's BLACKS. So screw you.

White Flight is the real problem here. And we real bosses (the taxpayers) can't afford to fund Toledo's White itchy feet any longer. You firefighters and teachers and cops should just move back into Toledo in a $60K house and stop complaining about how poorly you're paid.

Well said zero!

Firechase don't be dismayed by the thoughtless comments made by the frustrated posters. Most are suffering from Reaganesque policies started with the PATCO strike 1981 http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5604656. This is when tax policies and unions were first under serious attack. The fallout has struck the private sector the hardest with low pay and 401K pensions. The public sector use to be the lower pay but secure sector of our economy. This is no longer true. With forced globalism all Americans will compete with dollar an hour China. Trade agreements pushed by Wall Street Republicans (John Kasich) have ruined the American Middle class. Too many Americans are underemployed or unemployed causing 47% not to pay federal income tax or become dependent on social services. Tea Party members reject the burden placed on the remaining few that have good jobs. Cheap imported produces have seduced the Middle class to support foreign manufacturing over the domestically built products even thought it is destabilizing for America in the long run. Like the Trojan Horse of Troy where the Greeks were able to fool the city of Troy with false promise we too are being fooled by the false promise of demagogues that do not represent our interests.

Statements made are the opinion of the writer who is exercising his first amendment right to freedom of speech. Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and are generally permitted.

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