If there's a strike, students may have to cross picket lines to attend commencement.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Leaders of more than a dozen labor unions are throwing their support behind Youngstown State University's faculty and classified employees.
Members of unions representing schoolteachers, carpenters, Teamsters, ironworkers, musicians and government employees appeared at a news conference Tuesday.
"There's no reason why a settlement can't be reached at the bargaining table without a strike," Larry Fauver, president of the Youngstown AFL-CIO, said about stalled negotiations for both YSU unions.
Fauver suggested union members throughout the Mahoning Valley write letters to YSU President David Sweet and "tell him to get off his butt and let's get this settled."
YSU's classified union, representing about 370 employees ranging from maintenance workers to computer programmers, could strike Aug. 16 if a new pact isn't reached.
The 350-member faculty union could walk out Aug. 26, the first day of fall semester classes.
YSU announced Tuesday that summer commencement will be conducted as planned on Aug. 17 and that classes will begin Aug. 26, even if there is a strike.
Christine Domhoff, chief negotiator for the classified union, said students would have to cross a picket line to attend commencement if there's a strike.
"It's unfortunate that the university would put students in that position," she said.
Dr. John Russo, faculty union president, said some faculty have considered wearing armbands or staging a mass walkout during commencement.
If there is a strike, Russo said he expects strong support from the local labor community. "I have walked their picket lines, and I suspect they will walk mine if I ask them," he said.
State Rep. Ken Carano of Austintown, D-65th, also was at Tuesday's press conference, saying he supports the unions and blames state lawmakers and Gov. Bob Taft for YSU's financial woes.
YSU lost $3 million in an across-the-board cut in higher education's state funding this fiscal year, prompting an 8.9-percent tuition increase for the fall semester.
The university lost an additional $2.7 million under an allocation plan approved by the Ohio Board of Regents this month.
Carano said he and other Mahoning Valley lawmakers want Taft to restore the $2.7 million reduction, which Carano said could help resolve the labor problems.
"It's an uphill battle at the very least," Carano said about the chances of getting the money restored.