Maass works to head off a strike

The former Lordstown boss said chances of a settlement in the YSU talks are 'very good.'
YOUNGSTOWN -- Herman Maass, retired manager of the General Motors Lordstown assembly plant, has been working behind the scenes to head off a strike at Youngstown State University.
"That's where I think I can be the most help," he said about his role in the talks.
"You've got to remember that there's a significant trust gap between the two parties, and I guess I'm the bridge of trust between them. I haven't got them in the same room, but they trust me. That'll help bring them together."
Maass first started working as a consultant to YSU President David Sweet in March as the university began planning for negotiations with its classified staff and faculty unions.
What he's done
While his public presence in the talks has been nonexistent, Maass said he remains involved, making telephone calls, attending meetings and shuttling between the unions and administration.
"I think I've helped bring them closer together," he said. "A month ago there was no hope, and right now I think there's some hope. I think there's a very good opportunity here to reach a settlement."
The classified union, representing about 370 nonteaching employees ranging from maintenance workers to computer programmers, has filed a formal strike notice for Aug. 16, the day before YSU's summer commencement.
The union and YSU's negotiating team met with a federal mediator Tuesday. Christine Domhoff, the union's chief negotiator, said that Tuesday's talks were productive but that the two sides have yet to agree to anything. The two sides are to meet again Thursday.
Fact-finding hearing
Meanwhile, a fact-finding hearing for the contract for the 350-member faculty union will conclude this week. A fact-finding officer will hear arguments and choose either the union's or university's proposal.
The faculty plans to meet next week and could set a strike date, which likely would be the first day of fall semester classes Aug. 26.
YSU officials have said commencement will be conducted and classes will open Aug. 26, even if there is a strike.
Maass, who came to Lordstown in 1996 after five years managing GM's Saturn plant in Tennessee, said he's not used to having federal mediators and fact finders involved in bargaining.
"What I don't like about it is I think it moves the responsibility away from the negotiators to a third party," he said.
Maass said he has been focusing on the faculty contract for the past couple of days and thinks both sides are "very, very, very close" to a resolution.
"There's one financial issue that I think everything else hinges on, and if that financial issue is resolved, then I think they'll walk out of there with an agreement," he said.
"But who's going to make that last step, I don't know."

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