Decision that could prevent Ohio Turnpike strike expected Tuesday

| 1/10/2005

Tuesday is a crucial day for officials trying to stop the possibility of a strike on the Ohio Turnpike.

If a strike does occur, the Turnpike Commission has said it would keep the highway running, in part by charging flat toll rates. Tractor-Trailers would pay $10 to cross the state on the highway.

Members of Teamsters Local 436 are voting on whether to accept the decision of a fact finder who was appointed to work out differences between turnpike management and the 997 toll collectors and maintenance workers who belong to the union.

If union members – whose ballots are due by noon Eastern time Tuesday, Jan. 11 – vote to accept the report, it will end the possibility of a strike, and the turnpike will continue to operate.

However, if they vote to reject the fact finder’s work, officials will go back to the negotiating table, said Gary Suhadolnik, executive director of the turnpike.

“I would suppose sometime tomorrow we’ll know whether the membership accepts or rejects the fact finder’s report,” he told Land Line. “I would not want to speculate as to what they will or will not do.”

Turnpike spokeswoman Lauren H. Dehrmann confirmed that the Turnpike Commission announced Jan. 10 that it had voted to accept the report fact finder’s report.

“Although we are not completely pleased with the fact finder’s report, we accepted his recommendations in the spirit of compromise,” Thomas W. Noe, Chairman of the Ohio Turnpike Commission, said in a prepared statement.

However, union officials, in a notice posted on the local’s Web site, have urged the membership to vote against the report.

“After careful review of the decision rendered by Fact Finder Mancini, it is the recommendation of the union and a unanimous vote by the negotiating team to reject his findings,” the union statement read, adding that negotiators strongly recommended “that each member votes to reject the decision.”

The commission’s contract with the workers expired Dec. 31, 2004. However, the two parties extended the agreement to Jan. 17.

“The turnpike hopes we can reach an agreement with those employees before the 17th and that a work stoppage won’t happen,” Lauren H. Dehrmann, spokesperson, the Ohio Turnpike Commission.But if that doesn’t happen and there is a work stoppage, then those flat tolls will be imposed at that time”

– By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor