A union of Wright State University maintenance workers, technicians and other employees have voted to strike if necessary over a string of contractual issues.
Tom Bellew, chief steward for Teamsters Local 957, said the strike authorization was approved 84-6.
Members of the bargaining unit also voted to reject a state fact-finder’s report that sifted through five areas of contention remaining in contract talks the union and Wright State. That vote tally on Wednesday was 87 votes to reject the report’s findings and three votes to accept them.
The local is obligated to return to bargaining with the university at least once more, Bellew said Thursday. If no movement is achieved, then the union does have the option to strike.
“We can always ask for more negotiation meetings, either side. But we do have the authorization to strike,” he said.
The hope is that the authorization will spur talks to a successful conclusion.
“We’re hoping this opens up a better dialogue from what we’ve had so far and gets some movement from their side,” Bellew said.
Talks at the moment aren’t scheduled and likely will not be until after the new year, he added.
Wright State released a statement saying university leaders were disappointed in the vote and in the rejection of the fact-finder’s report.
“The university understands and accepts the union’s right to take a strike vote of their membership,” the university said. “While we hope that a strike action is not undertaken, we will be fully prepared to remain open and operational. Classes will not be impacted as this bargaining unit is not associated with class coverage.”
Wright State endured a three-week strike of faculty members early this year.
The Wright State chapter of the American Association of University Professors’ strike against the university was thought to be the longest college faculty strike in Ohio history, having totaled 20 days by the time resolution was reached in mid-February this year.
A Dayton attorney for the Teamsters told the Dayton Daily News that talks between the union and the university have been stymied by five open issues — including a university-proposed parking-fee increase for bargaining unit members, changes in seniority employment rights and the addition of 10 furlough days in which Wright State could lay off workers without pay each year.
Wages and a union-desired health insurance plan also remain issues of contention, attorney John Doll also said.
The state fact-finder, Carol Bader, a Toledo attorney, disagreed with the university on a proposal to furlough unit members up to 10 days a year, recommending instead that the number of furlough days be capped at five, not 10, and if work requires overtime, then members should be permitted to work.
The unit represents about 115 Wright State maintenance workers, drivers, groundskeepers, custodians and other workers. Some 10 university Lake Campus workers are also counted in the membership.
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