Courthouse employees to strike Friday

Beaver County (PA) Courthouse employees are expected to hold a one-day strike today after contract talks ended late Thursday without an agreement. County Solicitor Myron Sainovich said the members of Service Employees International Union Local 668, who have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2004, might picket in front of the courthouse from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Employees rejected a two-year proposal in August that county officials deemed their "best offer." At 10:40 p.m. Thursday, Commissioners Chairman Joe Spanik said he had yet to receive a definitive answer on a strike, though he also expected union members to be at the courthouse early today.

"I expect them to be here at seven o'clock to do something," he said. Both Spanik and Sainovich said the union had given assurances that essential departments, such as the county's emergency services center, would not be hampered by the strike.

"They don't want to see anybody harmed or injured because of a labor dispute," Sainovich said. SEIU business agent Al Smith didn't return a message left on his cell phone and further calls went unanswered.

Several people reported Thursday evening that only 12 out of about 100 people attending an SEIU meeting voted against striking.

Brian Hayden, the county's communications director, said county officials were "operating under the assumption something's going to happen" today because a strike was approved.

If a strike were to occur, Commissioner Dan Donatella said the courthouse would remain open with a "skeleton crew" if necessary.

"The courthouse will not be closed," he said. "The courthouse will be open."

Spanik also insisted that the county had enough staff to maintain operations in the courthouse. "We'll be functional," he said. "We'll be open."

Spanik said the two sides negotiated throughout the day before ending talks at around 9 p.m. Both sides were reviewing a proposal late Thursday.


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