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Lackawanna County Youth and Family Services Settles Dispute, Raises Issues about Binding Arbitration

Saturday, August, 15, 2015

Lackawanna County Youth and Family Services settled its union contract dispute recently with county commissioners following a two week strike. Many are comparing the settlement to another recently negotiated union contract in the area that came from negotiations using an arbitration panel – and many also believe the arbitrated deal is better and less contentious.


The Lackawanna County human services workers will receive raises of 2.4% per year over the coming three years as a result of the arbitration. The other deal, that involved the Lackawanna County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, will receive average raises of 3.4% over four years and came following a two week strike.


The Lackawanna County Youth and Family Services workers provide essential services to protect the safety of children in the area. Cases workers often visit homes, investigate reports of physical and sexual abuse, and testify in court on behalf of children with whom they have worked. The idea of these employees going on strike was heart-wrenching for the workers, as well as the members of the community. They work 24 hours a day and consider themselves an arm of law enforcement in the area.


One representative believes binding arbitration should be an option to prevent gaps in service. Pennsylvania has two laws regarding employee arbitration that dictate police, firefighters, prison, court employees, and mental health guards cannot strike. The Legislature has given those groups the ability to collectively bargain and if an impasse occurs, they are allowed to bring the matter to a panel of arbitrators.


A few employees crossed the picket line to keep the organization operating during the strike, but in general, many would like to see the no-strike laws apply to more government employees.