Group plans to keep students informed during contract talks
'I want peace and feel peace is within reach,' said the head of YSU trustees.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Confusion, uncertainty, helplessness.
That's how students at Youngstown State University are feeling about talk of a strike on campus, said Jeff Parks, Student Government president.
"We're getting a lot of questions," he said.
Parks, also a nonvoting, student member of the YSU trustees, said Student Government is going to set up a communications center on its Web site to receive and answer questions and concerns about a potential employee work stoppage.
"We're trying to get the straight facts and get them to the students as fast as we can," he said.
YSU and its classified union were scheduled to meet today with a federal mediator to try to hammer out a new contract. The union, which represents about 370 nonteaching workers ranging from groundskeepers to computer programmers, has set a strike date for Aug. 16.
The university's faculty union, meanwhile, also is negotiating a new pact and has said it may strike Aug. 26, the first day of fall semester classes.
YSU says it plans to conduct commencement Aug. 17 and open classes Aug. 26, even if there is a strike.
The administration is making strike contingency plans and has asked supervisors to collect information including names of possible outside contractors, whether those contractors would cross picket lines and steps needed to prevent possible sabotage during a strike.
Joe Nohra, chairman of YSU trustees, said he is optimistic that the contracts can be settled without a strike.
"I want peace and feel peace is within reach," he said after trustees met Monday behind closed doors to talk about the negotiations.
Nohra said an unexpected $2.7 million reduction in state funding last month makes reaching a settlement more difficult.
"We all know that," he said. "It's a no-brainer. How do you lose 2.7 plus million dollars and not have a difficult time with everything? We've got the task of having to balance the budget, and we're going to do that."
YSU President David Sweet said his staff is still discussing how to make up the $2.7 million loss and that he hopes to have specific proposals to trustees in the next several weeks.
Parks said most students he has talked to intend to stay enrolled at YSU, despite talk of strike.
"But there have been a couple of students who have expressed enough frustration that they are considering the option of leaving," he said.