PARTA union fails to meet agreement

Tieran Lewis

PARTA’s negotiations with its new drivers’ union will not affect any of its 70 Kent State student drivers or shuttling on campus. Tim Magaw | SUMMER KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

PARTA has not reached an agreement with its new drivers’ union and is continuing negotiations.

A mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service will be on hand to help conduct the negotiations.

“We are just too far apart on so many issues,” said Brian Trautman, PARTA director of operations, maintenance and facilities.

Frank Hairston, PARTA director of marketing and customer service, said both parties must reach a happy medium.

“I think the real crust of it is that they want so much and we only have so much to give,” he said. “So that’s where mediation comes in.”

Hairston and Trautman were unable to comment on the details of the negotiations, but Trautman said economics is a major factor.

“One of the things we’re always trying to be conscious of is making sure that we’re on top of the overall budget,” he said. “We only have so much money and that’s it.”

This is the first time a union has been organized at PARTA.

Hairston said PARTA is a “fledgling young baby” compared to other cities’ transportation systems.

“We’re not like Cleveland or Akron or Cincinnati; those have been around for a long time,” Hairston said. “We’re brand new, so that’s why there’s never been union here.”

The drivers’ union, Local 37 of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, was voted on and accepted by the State Employee Relations Board in September 2005. Negotiations between PARTA and the drivers’ union began in July 2006.

Union members are full- and part-time county drivers. Student drivers are not included.

Trautman said PARTA has been negotiating “in good faith” with the drivers’ union, meeting up to five times a month for a year.

Hairston said the union negotiations will not affect any of the PARTA service throughout Portage County, the 70 Kent State student drivers or service to the campus.

“The drivers who are in the union are driving today just like they normally do and everything’s moving forward,” he said.

Contact general assignment reporter Tieran Lewis at [email protected].