Teamsters Local 436 has informed the Ohio Turnpike Commission that
workers on the road intend to strike.
Gary Suhadolnik, executive director of the toll road, confirmed that
the agency received the letter, which listed the start date for a possible
strike as Monday, Jan. 24. However, he is still hopeful that a settlement can
be worked out with the 997 toll
collectors and maintenance workers who belong to the union.
“We anticipate some negotiations,” he said. “We would like to resolve
this. We’re interested in reaching an agreement that’s fair to our workers,
that’s fair to the Turnpike Commission and fair to the customers whose tolls
pay our wages. We’re always willing to talk.”
No talks are yet under way, but Suhadolnik was optimistic they would
“I don’t think that a strike is in either parties’ best interest,” he
said. “We think our employees do a good job, and I think our employees want to
be able to support their families, so I think, in both cases, we’d like to
reach an agreement.”
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, tollbooths along the road will be staffed with
turnpike management and some temporary and non-union workers.
In addition, a flat toll plan announced earlier will go into effect.
Vehicles will not be given a ticket when they enter the road, but will be
charged when they exit based on what category toll takers think they belong in,
Under that plan, tractor-trailers
would pay $10 to cross the state on the highway. Single unit trucks would pay
$5, and passenger cars would pay $1.
Suhadolnik said he expected the plan would allow traffic to flow
smoothly on the turnpike should a work stoppage take place.
“We think this plan will work fairly quickly,” he said. “With the flat
tolls, there’s less change, there’s less processing. I think this will work
very well, although we prefer to keep our operations as they are.”
“We plan to be open for business. We have preparations in place to
maintain the road if the weather requires us to do so, we have plans to collect
tolls. And so I think we’re all set, though we’re hopeful that we won’t have to
institute this plan.”
A strike, if it does take place, would be the first since the road
first opened in 1955, The Associated
Turnpike officials had warned of a possible strike late in 2004. But
the prospect became much more real earlier this week when union workers voted
overwhelmingly to reject a fact finder’s report that would have prevented a
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 union workers.
spokeswoman Lauren H. Dehrmann confirmed that the Turnpike Commission had voted earlier to accept
the report fact finder’s report.
However, union officials, in a notice posted on the local’s Web site
before the vote, had urged the membership to reject the report.
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.”
– By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor