PARTA strikes continue

Stacey Carmany

Disputes surround ‘fairshare’ payments

The Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 037 remains on strike against the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority for the third week.

Both sides have agreed the main source of contention between the parties is the fair share provision, which would require non-union employees to pay a share of their incomes toward union fees.

Gene Cozart, president of OAPSE Lo. 037 said under fair share, both union and non-union drivers would pay about 2 percent to the union.

Trina Molnar, field representative for OAPSE Lo. 037, said the union is willing to negotiate any proposed contract that contains a fair share or “modified fair share” provision. All other OAPSE contracts in the area contain a fair share provision. She added that the provision would not apply to student drivers because they are not “regular drivers.”

According to the Ohio Revised Code 4117.01, students are employees “whose primary purpose is educational training, including graduate assistants or associates, residents, interns, or other students working as part-time public employees less than fifty per cent of the normal year in the employee’s bargaining unit.”

Molnar said fair share is important because OAPSE is required by law to represent both union and non-union drivers equally in negotiations. Essentially, benefits negotiated by the union, including pay raises, sick days and vacation time, apply equally to union and non-union drivers.

“(PARTA) has no desire to have a union,” Molnar said. “It just happens to be fair share. It could have been anything.”

Cozart said drivers may be reluctant to join, or may even drop out of the union if they receive the same benefits as union drivers without paying a share of union fees, which may render the union obsolete.

OAPSE has never had a contract with the transit authority. The State Employment Relations Board certified OAPSE as the exclusive representative of all PARTA full-time and regular part-time drivers in 2005. In nearly two years of negotiations, PARTA and the union have been unable to reach an initial collective agreement. Both parties agreed to mediation as the final step in resolving the dispute.

The opposing parties last met for mediation Aug. 14. No proposals were exchanged. On Aug. 15, OAPSE filed a notice of its intent to strike and picket starting Aug. 25. The union filed an unfair labor practice charge against PARTA with the Relations Board on Aug. 21. The charge is under investigation.

PARTA’s position on the provision has been that “it continues to oppose any provision that would require employees who choose not to join the union to pay mandatory fees to support OAPSE,” according to a written statement by Frank Hairston, marketing, customer service and equal employment opportunity director for the transit authority. “PARTA believes that each employee should maintain his or her right to choose which organizations they wish to support with their hard-earned wages.”

Contact transportation reporter Stacey Carmany at [email protected].