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Meeting planned in effort to avoid strike by ACE union



Published: Fri, August 12, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A faculty negotiator said many of her members would honor an ACE picket line.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Negotiators for Youngstown State University officials and the nonfaculty union will meet Monday in a last-ditch effort to avert a strike.

But based on comments from both sides it doesn't appear YSU or its Association of Classified Employees union are willing to make significant moves to settle the dispute.

"We need a fair and equitable contract, and we don't have one now," said Christine Domhoff, president of the 400-member union.

The university gave its "last, best and final" contract offer Wednesday to the union, and doesn't plan to make "dramatic changes" to it, said John Habat, YSU vice president for administration.

The three-year proposal called for annual wage increases of 2 percent, 4 percent and 3 percent.

It also included a provision that ACE members with family coverage would contribute 1.5 percent of their salaries toward health care premiums in the second and third years of the contract. For those with single coverage, that contribution would be 0.75 percent in the last two years of the deal.

YSU's final offer requires ACE members to pay $100 a month if a member's spouse has access to health care at his or her place of employment and declines to take it.

The union is seeking annual raises of 3.75 percent, 4 percent and 4.25 percent, and no employee contribution to health care premiums.

Domhoff said the university's health-care costs aren't "soaring out of control," and YSU officials philosophically believe ACE members should pay toward their health care premiums.

Habat said YSU's health care costs increased 135 percent in the past six years, and about $1,000 of each full-time student's $6,300 annual tuition goes toward paying the health care costs of all YSU workers.

Last chance

The two sides will meet at 9:30 a.m. Monday with mediator Jack Yoedt. ACE is scheduled to hold a meeting at 5:15 p.m. that day to vote on the contract proposal and strike authorization if the deal is rejected. The strike would begin at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

Habat said the proposed contract would cost YSU about $2.4 million over the three years, not including an early-retirement incentive because it isn't known how many people would take advantage of it. Representatives from several local unions and labor organizations attended a Thursday press conference held by ACE to show their support for ACE. The representatives said their union members wouldn't cross ACE's picket line if the union went on strike.

Among those speaking in support of ACE was Nancy White, a YSU professor who serves on the faculty union's negotiating team and is its grievance chairwoman.

The 380-member faculty union filed a notice of intent to strike effective Aug. 23 if a new contract isn't settled by then.

White said a vast majority of the faculty would not cross the picket line if the nonfaculty union were on strike.

When asked what would happen if the faculty union approved a contract and ACE was on strike, White said: "A lot of us have plans to use many, many of our sick days."

The first day of the fall semester is Aug. 29. Domhoff said the labor strife has negatively impacted enrollment. Habat disagrees.

Jim Kaster, president of United Auto Workers Local 1714 at Lordstown General Motors, said management and union leaders need to trust each other or more strikes will occur in the Mahoning Valley.

"This will give the Valley another black eye," said Kaster, who is supporting ACE. "We'd like to have this settled before kids are back in school."




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