YSU union presidents view talks differently

The classified union president is losing her job effective June 30.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The presidents of the unions representing the faculty and the classified civil service staff at Youngstown State University describe contract negotiations with university officials in contrasting ways.
Michael Finney, president of the 380-member YSU faculty union, said contract negotiations are "cordial" and the two sides are "continuing to make progress."
Christine Domhoff, president of the 400-member YSU Association of Classified Employees union, said university officials ignored her requests to start negotiations early.
Also, YSU is eliminating her job effective June 30. ACE's contract expires Aug. 15.
"I find the timing questionable," she said regarding her losing her job and the contract's expiration.
Hugh L. Chatman, YSU's human resources/labor relations executive director and a member of the university's negotiating team, said the timing of Domhoff losing her job and the contract negotiations are unfortunate.
"But we didn't do it purposely," he said.
Even if she is no longer employed at YSU, Domhoff will serve as ACE's union president. She is running unopposed for re-election to the post later this month.
Losing the bump
Domhoff, a 23-year YSU employee, serves as administrative assistant for the Cisco Networking Academy at the university's Metro College campus in Boardman. YSU is eliminating the noncredit program effective June 30, and she was informed in an April 29 letter written by Chatman that she was out of a job at that point.
Domhoff said that with her seniority, she should have bumping rights -- meaning she should be permitted to take another job of which she is qualified and displace a less-senior employee in that post.
Chatman said when Domhoff went from a YSU-funded job to an externally funded post in August 2001, she was aware that if the fund dried up, she'd lose her job. The union bargained away the bumping rights of members who are externally funded, he said.
Domhoff said she is a civil service employee, and Ohio Administrative Code requires YSU to put in writing that it was abolishing her position and the specific reason for eliminating it, and that hasn't happened.
Domhoff filed a complaint with the Ohio Personnel Board of Review, and expects to have a hearing date before a state administrative law judge shortly.
She also filed a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission contending gender discrimination.
Dissenting surveys
In March, YSU revealed the results of a $43,000 study that showed YSU's classified civil service employees earn 12.6 percent more in wages than those who do similar jobs in the area.
ACE officials say the study's data is generic, and compared union members' pay to those at fast-food restaurants and temporary workers, among others.
The union did its own salary survey with civil service employees in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties -- as well as Stark and Portage if there was only one person in the other three counties combined with the same job classification, Domhoff said. The survey showed ACE members were paid less than others doing the same jobs, she said.
Contract tensions
The two sides exchanged proposals on May 25, and began negotiating June 7.
Domhoff said she requested the two sides start negotiating in August 2004, something that didn't happen.
"The last couple of contracts we came to terms that both sides could accept," she said. "I wanted to come to the table early because I thought it was important to make a statement that both sides were working together. The university chose to wait."
A strike is always an option, but Domhoff said she hopes the union doesn't have to do that.
YSU trustees and senior management officials met behind closed doors Thursday for an hour to discuss contract negotiations.
The three-year contract ratified in August 2002 by the classified union called for them to receive 3 percent annual raises. The union agreed to eliminate traditional medical coverage, pay for doctor visits and generic drugs, and increase the cost to its members for name-brand drugs from $2 to $12.
Those medical concessions saved YSU more than $2 million over the life of the contract, Domhoff said.
Making progress
While negotiations with ACE are just starting, Chatman said both sides are handling the discussions in a professional manner.
"There are many issues to work through," he said.
YSU negotiators have met 11 times since March with the union that represents 380 full-time faculty members.
"We've made progress on noneconomic issues," said Thomas Maraffa, YSU's special assistant to the president and the university's chief negotiator on the faculty contract. "We're still working on the economic issues."
Finney said he agreed with Maraffa's assessment, and both sides are continuing to make progress.
The faculty union's contract expires Aug. 21. The expiring contract included 3.5 percent annual raises for faculty members, as well as a $1,000 lump-sum payment.

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