The Union That Used To Represent Juvenile Justice Center Staff Sounds Alarm

photo of juvenile justice court
The Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court, which also runs the juvenile justice center, has called for more staff for years. [Nick Castele / Ideastream Public Media]

The union that used to represent juvenile court and detention center staff is raising alarms about working conditions in the facility.

Laborers Local 860 formerly represented 135 workers in Cuyahoga County’s juvenile court and detention facility.

After about a year of talks, court administrators ended negotiations on a new contract in December, said union field organizer Colin Sikon, “and has essentially kicked the union out and refuses to recognize us as the freely and fairly elected representatives of their employees.”

Between 10 and 15 detention center officers have left since the loss of the union and staffing shortages have led to lockdowns and more large fights, Sikon said.

A court spokesperson said a fix for the staffing shortages is in the works, but pointed to a different cause.

“Our Court is unfortunately experiencing the same staffing shortages as other juvenile detention and correctional facilities throughout the state and subject to the consequences of the nationwide employment crisis due to COVID-19,” said Anne McDonough, assistant legal counsel for the juvenile court.

According to McDonough, negotiations with the union ended after a year of no progress and were not stopped by the court.

“The parties did not get close to reaching a new collective bargaining agreement,” she said.

Sikon said the facility has been understaffed for years and officers in the detention facility average between 60 and 70 hours per week to maintain the necessary coverage. In August 2019, the officers approached court administrators about helping to recruit additional staff.

“[They] declined the offer and said that they know what’s best,” Sikon said.

The court’s spokesperson said nine additional detention center staff were recently hired and will start work the first week of August, leaving the court with eight positions to fill to be fully staffed.

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