Union workers reject proposed settlement with Ohio Turnpike

| 1/11/2005

Union workers on the Ohio Turnpike have voted overwhelmingly to reject a fact finders report that would have prevented a strike.

However, the vote does not mean a strike will definitely begin. Union and Turnpike negotiators have until Monday, Jan. 17, to reach an agreement before the current contract expires.

The vote, announced Jan. 11 on the Teamsters Local 436 Web site, was 497-151 against the fact finder’s report. The fact finder was appointed to work out differences between turnpike management and the 997 toll collectors and maintenance workers who belong to the union.

Gary Suhadolnik, executive director of the turnpike, told Land Line Jan. 10 that if union workers voted to reject the fact finder’s work, officials would go back to the negotiating table.

Turnpike spokeswoman Lauren H. Dehrmann confirmed that the Turnpike Commission had voted earlier to accept the fact finder’s report.

Union officials, in a notice posted on the local’s Web site, had 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 later extended the agreement to Jan. 17.

If a strike does occur, the Turnpike Commission said in an earlier statement that 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.

“The turnpike hopes we can reach an agreement with those employees before the 17th and that a work stoppage won’t happen,” said Dehrmann. “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