A neutral source will examine concerns about workers’ contract negotiations

Parties strive to reach agreement

A fact-finder will examine the fairness of contract proposals from Kent State and the union representing more than 300 university employees, following the breakdown of negotiations between the two parties.

Willis Walker, vice president for human resources, said the neutral fact-finder will submit a non-binding report after weighing the two proposals. Its report will include a written recommendation on the unresolved issues, according to an Oct. 20 eInside Management Update.

Kent State President Lester Lefton said he thinks the university’s latest offer was a good one.

“I hope they come to realize that in these economic times, it would be smart before the economic times deteriorate even further to bring about a rapid resolution of a good contract offer,” he said.

The university entered negotiations with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees this summer, hoping for an agreement before the union’s contract expired Sept. 30. But both parties denied each other’s proposals.

They agreed to extend the union’s previous contract until negotiations come to a resolution.

Lefton said he expects the university and the union to “come to a conclusion that they will live with and that we will live with.”

Dave Schuckert, president of AFSCME Local 153, said the university’s offer contained vague wording and did not provide enough for the 367 full- and part-time workers represented by the union. He said many workers make $2 to $3 per hour less than their counterparts at other state universities.

“We’ve got people in food services that are also on government assistance,” he said.

Schuckert, who works as a painter at Kent State, said he felt there wasn’t enough discussion and that the Board of Trustees hasn’t been open to further discussion.

Schuckert said he wants the union’s members to recruit non-members to join, adding that only 165 of the 367 represented hold membership.

“If they would all sign up, we’d have a better voice,” he said. “We’re trying to pull together to get more power to ask for what we need.”

He said increasing membership to 66 percent will give the union more bargaining power, but workers’ current wages make paying union dues unaffordable.

AFSCME represents employees in several departments, including Dining Services, Residence Services and Campus Environment and Operations.

Schuckert said the employees affected by the contract negotiations are responsible for providing students with safe buildings, clean grounds and sanitary food.

“I would just like to peacefully work this out,” he said.

Contact general assignment reporter Bo Gemmell at [email protected] and administration reporter Ben Wolford at [email protected].