Young: Cranley Overstepped His Authority Under City Charter

Aug 15, 2016

Council Member Wendell Young at City Hall News Conference.
Credit Howard Wilkinson / WVXU

Cincinnati Council Member Wendell Young made it clear Monday that despite filing an unfair labor practice charge against Mayor John Cranley, he is completely in support of raises for public workers.

But he totally disagrees with Cranley's plan to bypass the city manager and have council pass wage increases of five percent this year and four percent next year.

This, Young said Monday morning in a city hall news conference, completely goes against the city's 92-year-old charter which keeps elected politicians out of the business of negotiating with unions and gives the authority to the city manager.

Friday, Young filed an unfair labor practice charge against Cranley with the State Employee Relations Board.

And, separately, City Manager Harry Black has filed a complaint against the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 69, which backs Cranley's plan to bypass the city manager and have council vote on the raises.

Cranley held his own news conference Monday afternoon where he said he has been told by the city solicitor that Young does not have standing to file a complaint with the State Employee Relations Board, which deals with disputes between employees and employers.

Monday afternoon, Cranley's office released an opinion that the mayor had sought from City Solicitor Paul Boggs Muething which said a council member does not have standing because he or she does not have a "direct, personal and pecuniary" interest in the mayor's actions. 

Cranley also said he believes he has a five-vote majority on council for raises for firefighters and police officers and four council members who would vote to include employees of AFSCME, CODE and the Building Trades Council.

Council, which is on summer break, may vote on Cranley's plan when it returns after Labor Day.

Cranley's critics say the plan is a ploy to gain union support for his re-election bid in 2017.

Young, surrounded by supporters in a city hall hearing room Monday morning, explained that he wants to see the city's union workers get pay raises and is a union supporter, but that it should be done through negotiations with the city manager.

Cranley has overstepped his bounds under the city charter, Young says.

"In my nearly 50 years of city government,'' said Young, a former police officer and school teacher, "I've never seen a mayor interfere with the city manager's role as the chief negotiator with our public unions."

Earlier this year, Black was given the job of negotiating new contracts with four city unions, the firefighters, the police union, AFSCME and CODE.

The city budget passed in June included three percent raises for the police and firefighters and smaller raises for the other unions.

Then, out of the blue, Cranley proposed his five percent and four percent raises.

Young said Cranley has tried to portray him and other council members who object to the plan as being anti-union. Nothing could be further from the truth, said Young, a former union member.

"The attempt to frame this issue as me not supporting unions and not believing that union members and/or other employees of this city of Cincinnati should receive fair wages, or the best wages available that the taxpayers can pay for, are willing to pay for, that is false,'' Young said.

At his news conference, the mayor called Young's move "a diversion."

"Wendell has somehow said this is about me,'' Cranley said. "I'm not getting a pay raise in this process."

The people who will benefit, Cranley said, are the 4,500 families of the city's union workers who will get substantial pay raises.