Union: Allegheny County workers to strike

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Nearly 50 Allegheny County workers, mainly truck drivers in the Public Works Department, will strike after union members overwhelmingly voted Sunday to reject the county's proposals for a new contract, their union leader said.

Joseph Rossi Jr., president of the Teamsters Local 249, said the drivers who work in Public Works and other departments have been without a contract for 14 months and that the county has withheld pay increases it has given other county workers.

"We are striking, but I don't have to give them any notice, and I don't intend to. We will be striking most likely this week," he said. "We want the same wage increases that everybody else in the county got."

County Solicitor Andrew Szefi said in a statement Sunday night that county had not yet received any formal notice on the vote.

"The county has presented a fair offer, but the expectations of the Teamsters have been beyond what our other unions have bargained for and received in good faith," Mr. Szefi said.

Mr. Rossi added that workers will also hold a Downtown "informational" picket around noon today before a bus trip organized by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to Deer Lakes Park that is related to a proposal to drill for gas beneath the park. Mr. Rossi said the union, which also represents nearly 530 courts employees who are going to binding arbitration on their own contract, gave the county nine months' notice in the spring of 2012 that the drivers' contract was coming to a close.

However, the county did not respond until just two weeks before it was set to expire in December of that year, he said.

"This administration doesn't give you an answer on anything," Mr. Rossi said.

Though health benefits had been a concern at one point in the negotiations, Mr. Rossi said the union had agreed to abide by a fact-finder's report that would give them the same coverage as everyone else.

However, he says the county did not offer to extend the same raises it gave other workers: 2 percent in 2013 and 2014 and 2.5 percent in 2015 and 2016.

"The county did not agree with the fact-finders report," Mr. Rossi said. "They're looking to punish the Teamsters because we did not go along with them and the other 12 unions and agree to this contract."

The drivers, who mainly work in the county Public Works Department, operate salt, paving and bucket trucks, as well as street sweepers and Vactor trucks that clean drains and catch basins.

About five workers drive for the county Health Department and another five work for the county's Kane Regional Centers, which offer nursing home care.

Those workers will not strike, Mr. Rossi said.

"We don't want to adversely affect the public when it comes to people's well-being," he said.

After the weekend warming, more winter weather was on the way this week. Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Moon said Sunday night that Pittsburgh could expect 1 to 3 inches of snow by this morning, with heavier snowfalls in the counties south of the city.

Sleet and freezing rain are expected for Tuesday night, though accumulation is expected to be less than a tenth of an inch.

Allegheny County's Public Works director, Steve Johnson, said in a statement that the county is responsible for 640 miles of roads and "will continue to provide services to our residents, keeping our roads clear and salted in the event of adverse weather."

Robert Zullo: rzullo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3909.

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