YSU FACULTY UNION Team gets OK to call strike

Classified employees have ratified a three-year pact with the university.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State University faculty members gave their negotiations team the right to authorize a strike on the first day of the fall semester if a contract cannot be ironed out with the school.
More than 200 members of the YSU-Ohio Education Association voted unanimously Thursday to give the strike authorization notice, said John Russo, faculty union president. The union has about 350 members.
"Wearing buttons reading 'informed and dangerous,' the faculty voiced their dissatisfaction with the [YSU President David] Sweet administration's conduct during the negotiations, which have resulted in unfair labor practices' being filed against the Sweet administration," Russo said in a prepared statement.
YSU trustees were to consider today a nonbinding fact finder's report regarding the teacher's contract, said Walt Ulbricht, YSU's executive director of marketing and communications.
Procedural step
"The strike authorization is a procedural thing," he said. "It authorizes the leadership to call a strike if the membership doesn't ratify what the fact finder has proposed. It's a procedural step, but we remain hopeful and optimistic that a resolution will be reached."
The fact finder heard from both sides during a hearing last week. Both sides have to accept the fact finder's report by a majority decision for it to be enacted.
The union's contract with YSU is set to expire Wednesday. Faculty leadership has said it will strike Aug. 26, the first day of fall classes, if there is no settlement.
YSU officials say classes will be held even if the strike occurs.
Also at today's meeting, trustees were to vote on ratifying a three-year deal with its classified employees union that union members ratified Thursday.
The YSU-Association of Classified Employees, which represents about 370 nonteaching employees ranging from clerical, maintenance, groundskeeping and library workers to computer operators, had been slated to strike today. But last week, the university announced it had reached a tentative agreement on a three-year contract with the union.
3 percent annual raises
Although the university had sought wage concessions at the beginning of the negotiations, the three-year ACE contract contains 3 percent annual pay increases, a university employee said. Additionally, it provides bonuses if student enrollment grows above target levels, the employee said.
"The contract is a fair contract that we can live with and the university can live with, and we are beginning to work on building labor relations and improving them on campus," said ACE's chief negotiator, Christine Domhoff. "I believe it's the best contract that we could have gotten under the circumstances," she said, referring to reductions in state funding for higher education.
Some 275 ACE members voted on the agreement by secret ballot, and Domhoff declined to provide exact vote totals. The union's negotiating team and executive committees unanimously supported the agreement, she said.
Support for faculty
As was the case in previous ACE agreements, ACE members are prohibited from engaging in a work stoppage in support of a strike by another union, such as the faculty union. But ACE members may picket on their own time and otherwise help strikers from another union, she said. "I will encourage everybody to support the faculty in every way we can," she added.
The university's consultant, Herman Maass, retired GM Lordstown plant manager, "was very helpful in the last week of negotiations," Domhoff said.
"I thought it was fair and equitable,'' said Roxann Sabelli, an administrative assistant in enrollment services, who said she voted in favor of the agreement. She added that the agreement preserves employees' rights and contains no concessions. "We made some gains," she said.
"The university views this as an opportunity to continue its focus on developing strong labor-management relations," Ulbricht said in a prepared statement.
XCONTRIBUTOR: Peter H. Milliken, Vindicator staff writer.

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