CLEVELAND — On Thursday morning, members from several local workers unions took to the Free Stamp in downtown Cleveland to protest.
The workers are frustrated with the city of Cleveland amid months of negotiations that have yet to produce an agreement.
Could their frustration soon become yours? Your trash may not be picked up. Your streets may not be plowed. And your water mains and streets may stop being repaired.
It all boils down to a contract agreement that stands between the city of Cleveland and local union members.
"The city is not looking to recognize what the essential workers did throughout COVID and certainly what other cities around the state of Ohio have recognized," says Carl Pecoraro, the principal officer of the Teamsters Local 507.
The unions and the city have been in contract negotiations for months. Union leaders say the delay now is due to wage proposals for workers, calling the package "substandard." They claim that workers in Cleveland are paid 10 to 15% less than their counterparts in most major Ohio cities.
Frustrations started in the early days of the pandemic.
"Our members were deemed essential and highly critical during that point and they were providing services that had a direct impact on their own health," explains Bobby Mendel, business representative for Laborers Local 860. "A lot of our members contracted COVID and some of them died from it."
They say they never got hazard pay during that time.
"Instead the city wants to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to a private law firm for negotiations to basically combat our own workers," Mendel adds.
Those negotiations are scheduled to continue with a fact-finder set to be brought in. The fact-finder will be an impartial examiner to determine the facts of the case.
But the union isn't hopeful about the outcome. They say representatives of the city have already said it will not accept if the fact-finder rules in favor of the union. If that's the case, it could lead to a major labor dispute that would trickle down to residents.
The union members that are affected do everything from waste collection, to street repairs, to building inspections out at the airport.
There is no strike yet. Union members stress that a strike is not the outcome they are looking for.
"Our goal is that there will not be a strike. Our goal is that we can bring attention to this and the mayor and the mayors office can recognize that we need to fix this problem," says Pecoraro.