Campus buses uninterrupted by union strike

Kelly Petryszyn

But city routes may be affected if it continues

WATCH a video from the picket line.

Students who traveled Summit Road Monday were greeted by chanting and picket signs. “SCAB!” and other terms were shouted by union members as PARTA drivers entered the bus agency’s parking lot.

Starting 4 a.m. Monday, about 45 drivers formed a picket line outside PARTA’s office on Summit Road.

Campus bus drivers are not part of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees and therefore campus bus routes are not affected. However, county drivers are part of the union.

Larry D’Agostino, vice president of OAPSELocal 037, estimated that there are about 75 county bus drivers, 66 of which are union members.

The strike stems from more than two years of failed contract negotiations between the association and PARTA. Negotiations came to a halt because PARTA did not include the fair share policy in the contract. Shortly following the impasse, the association filed an unfair labor practice charge against PARTA for regressive bargaining.

If the strike continues, students who rely on PARTA buses may be effected.

Alena Burroughs, a library science graduate student, relies on the interurban Stow and Ravenna buses because she has no other means of transportation.

“I will get stuck in a hard spot because I work in Ravenna and live and go to school in Kent,” she said.

Maddie Spencer, a freshman nursing major, also relies on the interurban Stow bus. She lives in Pebblebrook apartments and said without transportation, she would get stuck at her apartment.

Buses are running today and are scheduled to run in the future, said Frank Hairston, PARTA Marketing and Equal Employment Opportunity director. For now, Hairston assures riders to not worry. PARTA proved that despite the strike, they can provide transportation.

“We are taking it one day at a time,” Hairston said. “We will provide transportation for the people of Portage County and the university.”

Trina Molnar, Field Representative of OAPSE Local 037, said she believes the strike is effective.

“The strike is very effective. We have support from our membership,” she said.

Other union members agree that the strike is showing the strength of the union.

“A union is part of the discussion at a business, like checks and balances,” said OAPSE Regional Director Llyod Rains. “We support PARTA and what they offer the community and county. We want our employees to be treated with respect.”

D’Agostino has been a driver for almost ten years and said PARTA has been unreasonable in the situation and countless time and money has been spent to keep from having a contract. According to a press release from Sunday, OAPSE and PARTA met with a federal mediator but no agreement was reached.

Molnar said the union is ready to negotiate with PARTA.

“OAPSE is prepared to go back to the table any time that they would be able to offer fair share,” she said.

PARTA said it is willing to talk with the union.

“We are always willing to negotiate,” Hairston said.

Contact news correspondent Kelly Petryszyn at [email protected].