After dozens of Toledo Police officers called off sick earlier this week, officials are fearing a possible strike even though it is illegal under Ohio law.
Close to half of all Toledo Police officers scheduled to work Monday night's third shift called in sick, with another 16 officers calling off for Tuesday morning's first shift. Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre suspects the officers were staging a "Blue Flu" in protest over forced union concessions. Because there is evidence that it was an organized effort (Monday) in violation of policy, in violation of the contract, in violation of state law, I have directed internal affairs to initiate a departmental investigation, said Navarre.
The "Blue Flu" comes after a Lucas County Common Pleas court judge, last Wednesday, denied a request by the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association to place a temporary restraining order against Toledo City Council's declaration of exigent circumstances. City Council's decision gives Toledo Mayor Mike Bell the authority to impose forced concessions upon union employees, including TPPA members, without their consent.
TPPA members are being forced to begin paying into their own health care costs and pensions.
On Tuesday, TPPA President Dan Wagner said his union members were not against initiating a strike in order to allow for their views to be heard in court. The union believes that the city forcing concessions from its members would be a breach of contract. As state law prohibits public safety workers from striking, the action would force the city to take the union to court.
Toledo City Councilman and Public Safety Committee Chairman, D. Michael Collins, was a Toledo Police patrolman when officers went on strike in 1979. "The panic that went through this city was, we were like a war zone and that's the only way it could be described," said Collins, who stayed on the job despite his peers walking off. The July walkout lasted 48 hours and was marked by numerous incidents of arson throughout the city. Residents were seen arming themselves with weapons. The city was eventually granted an injunction that forced officers to either go back on the job or face fines.
Chief Navarre has said that Internal Affairs will launch an investigation into this week's officer call-offs. He says he will address the patrol union's threatened strike by putting more command officers on the street and reaching out to the Lucas County Sheriff's Office for assistance.