PARTA continues strike

Brittany Moffat

County bus drivers and select higher-ups joined together yesterday despite the rain to hold their second rally of the week in front of the PARTA offices. Many signs of protest pointed toward the offices. Shaye A. Painter | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

More than 50 striking PARTA employees and supporters gathered outside the transit service’s gates yesterday evening for a rally in support of the ongoing strike.

The striking PARTA employees were joined by representatives from various unions.

They stood on either side of the PARTA headquarters’ driveway, waving signs and shouting at drivers who were not striking.

As the rally began, the group gathered to one side of the driveway where a large inflatable rat had been set up.

Gene Cozart, president of the local Ohio Association of Public School Employees chapter, and Lloyd Rains, regional director for the AFL-CIO in Northeast Ohio, stood together under a single umbrella with a bullhorn to welcome their “union brothers and sisters.”

In a letter read to picketers, Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Tim Ryan called the continuation of the strike a “costly disturbance” to the county’s economy and a hardship for county residents who rely on the bus service during the current energy crisis and high gas prices.

The organizers continued by talking about the management’s lack of response to the union’s demands and the lack of respect the general manager had been showing the union.

Matthew Kaplan, a community liaison with Brown’s Cleveland office, arrived and shook hands with those on the picket line. Kaplan said he could not comment on the Brown’s behalf, but said he was there to relay a message of support from the senator.

Larry D’Agostino, vice president of the Local 4 union and a PARTA driver, shouted angrily as board of trustees President Rick Bissler’s sedan entered the parking lot.

Sophomore English major Lisa Mirkovich and Yvette Coil were present to represent the Kent State students supporting the striking bus drivers. Mirkovich said the Kent State Anti-War Committee, the Kent Anti-Racist Action and the Women’s Liberation Collective were organizing to show support for the strikers and planned to have students join the picket lines until the contract dispute is resolved. Coil, a conflict management major, said the student groups support workers and their right to demonstrate.

“It’s a freedom our boys are fighting for, but we never use it,” she said.

The rally ended when the board meeting began. Joe Yensel, PARTA operations manager, said only 50 people other than the board were being allowed in by order of the fire marshal. About 19 of the picketers were left waiting outside.

About a half hour into the meeting, the board entered into executive session to discuss the union negotiations. Eleven of the 16 total board members were in attendance. On return from executive session, the board did not issue any comment regarding negotiations.

Frank Hairston, PARTA public relations director, offered no comment on the rally or the union negotiations.

Contact public affairs reporter Brittany Moffat at [email protected].