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Hudson Union Files Labor Complaint Against Police Chief, City

The Ohio city’s police dispatchers union has filed an unfair labor practice charge regarding a recent installation of a camera in the dispatch center’s work area, which the union compares to a “spy camera.”

(TNS) — The city's police dispatchers union Wednesday filed an unfair labor practice charge accusing the police chief and city of "failing to bargain in good faith" with the union regarding the recent installation of a camera in the dispatch center's work area.

The city, through a news release, called the Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association's filing with the State Employment Relations Board "frivolous" and alleged the action is "retaliation for recent disciplinary actions against OPBA members."

Dominic Saturday, general counsel for OPBA, said the filing has "nothing to do with discipline against OPBA members."

The Akron Beacon Journal and Hudson Hub-Times have requested documentation of disciplinary action that was taken against Hudson Police Department members of the OPBA during the last six months.

The OPBA represents all Hudson police officers, but this charge was filed with SERB only on behalf of the department's five dispatchers, Saturday said.

The OPBA alleges that Hudson Police Chief Perry Tabak and the city of Hudson violated state labor law when they declined to have a bargaining meeting with the OPBA about the installation of a "spy camera" in the dispatch center.

Saturday said there had not previously been a video camera and audio system in the dispatch center work area. He noted the OPBA would drop its charge if Tabak installs a "spy camera with 24/7 audio recording in his office and his Hudson-owned vehicle. I think that's fair. He should lead by example."

Saturday added the OPBA would be willing to pay for the same camera that was installed in the dispatch center. The city, however, stated, "There is no legal or logical justification for the OPBA's demand."

Camera Installed Last Fall

The city said it notified police department personnel in October that some "security cameras" in and around the police station were being replaced, updated and reconfigured.

"The city informed its police personnel that the cameras are not for purposes of routinely monitoring staff," the city stated in a news release. "Rather, the city explained to its police personnel that the cameras help provide a safe and secure work environment."

In November, Saturday emailed Tabak to request a bargaining session with city representatives to discuss union members' concerns about a video surveillance system being installed in the dispatch center.

"This surveillance camera would affect our members' wages, hours, and working conditions — which are mandatory bargaining subjects under Ohio law," Saturday wrote in his message to Tabak. "We respectfully request that you do not activate it until after you've negotiated with our representatives in good faith. And the union's bargaining committee does not waive its right to bargain to agreement or impasse over the effects of this surveillance camera."

Tabak replied with a three-page letter where he declined to have a bargaining meeting and added "The city does not believe it has any obligation under the Ohio Public Employees Collective Bargaining Act to bargain over the issue you raised."

Tabak contended there is not a SERB case that prohibits the city from installing the camera without first bargaining with the dispatchers union. Nor is there such a case, Tabak asserted, that obligates the police department to provide an area in the dispatch center where employees can expect privacy "outside the view of a routine security camera."

Tabak also noted that "Even if there were a statutory obligation to bargain, the OPBA expressly waived any such right" during its most recent bargaining session with the city.

The OPBA claims Tabak's refusal to have a bargaining meeting on the camera issue is a violation of state labor law.

The union's filing notes that other labor boards, including the [ National Labor Relations Board, have held that "cameras are a mandatory subject of bargaining and that employers are obligated to bargain over their placement and use.".

The city counters that the use of cameras are "commonplace" in police dispatch centers.

"[The OPBA] also ignores the clear language in the collective bargaining agreement between the city and the OPBA which permits the city to utilize technology and determine the 'methods, process, means or personnel by which governmental operations are to be conducted,'" the city stated.

What Happens Next

Saturday said SERB will now investigate the charge and determine if a complaint should be issued. If SERB issues a formal complaint against the employer, then an administrative law judge would hear the case and issue a recommendation. The full SERB board would then render a decision.

Saturday added there is an opportunity for mediation to occur between the parties before the hearing phase.

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