OCSEA, the union representing state prison farm workers, has received an order dismissing its case regarding the farm closures. Despite OCSEA’s adamant arguments otherwise, Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Holbrook determined that the subject of an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) is the same as the matter before the court and, therefore, the court lacks jurisdiction in the case.
The union’s ULP filed with the State Employee Relations Board asks that the Ohio Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction bargain with the union over the prison farm layoff. The union’s court filing requested the court prevent DR&C from selling off farm assets until after the union and DR&C arbitrate a pending grievance.
The ULP is still pending before the State Employee Relations Board and is expected to be heard in October. The union has also filed a grievance under their contract with the State of Ohio.
“We are disappointed, but believe this is still a strong case. We will continue to fight the prison farm closures using every means at our disposal,” said OCSEA President Christopher Mabe.
“The sale has been a taxpayer rip-off from the very beginning, especially given the massive investment of money, people and resources in the farm operations,” said Mabe. A recent auction of dairy farm equipment at London Correctional Institution brought in just pennies on the dollar for some brand new equipment.
“The administration couldn’t get Senate Bill 5 passed, so they’re trying to undermine our rights in other ways,” said Shawn Gruber, OCSEA Corrections Assembly President. “Refusing to bargain with us on a layoff is one of those things they tried to get under SB 5,” he said. “We aren’t going to stand for it.”
OCSEA sought an injunction from the court in an effort to protect the rights of the impacted employees the union represents. Under the OCSEA collective bargaining agreement with the state, DR&C is required to give appropriate notice and to bargain with the union when a closure is announced. In addition, it must provide the union with a rationale explaining the reasons for the closure, all of which DR&C has failed to do.
The union is planning an event in Mansfield to protest the auction of the state’s beef cattle in October.