Ohio Welfare Workers Strike
CLEVELAND (AP) _ Welfare workers in Ohio’s most populous county walked off the job today in a contract dispute, and three pickets were arrested, the union said.
The 1,200 workers serve 130,000 welfare recipients in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, but officials said they would maintain services despite the walkout.
The strike began at 12:01 a.m., and union members began setting up picket lines at about 7 a.m., said Jim Grossfeld, director of public affairs for Ohio Council 8, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Grossfeld said three pickets were arrested at the main county welfare office but released on their own recognizance. He was unsure of the charges.
Negotiations on a contract covering about 1,600 of the 2,500 workers broke off Saturday night.
″We know the strike will inconvenience and frighten many of those who rely on the department for services like health and nutrition, protection against child abuse and income maintenance,″ said David T. Abbott, county administrator. ″We will do our best to continue the uninterrupted delivery of these services by redeploying staff.″
AFSCME Local 1746 represents clerks, income maintenance workers, social workers, family service aides and others workers for the county’s Human Services Department.
Among the first welfare clients affected will be food-stamp recipients, who normally have claims processed the first 10 days of each month.
About 200,000 people get food stamps, but not all require the services of county welfare workers because of automation, Grossfeld said.
County officials said there are several unresolved issues, including pay. The county has offered workers a 3 percent raise retroactive to Feb. 15, the day a one-year pact expired. Non-union welfare employees were given average increases of 1.5 percent this year.
Current salaries range from $11,000 a year to little more than $19,000 a year, said Patricia Moss, a union negotiator.
The union wants a 5 percent pay raise and the county to pay for increases in hospitalization costs.