Ohio Turnpike strike decision put off again

| Monday, January 24, 2005

The Ohio Turnpike has avoided a strike by toll takers and other workers – at least for now.

Teamsters Local 436 informed the Ohio Turnpike Commission earlier this month 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 still be worked out with the 997 toll collectors and maintenance workers who belong to the union.

However, the Turnpike Commission announced at 5 a.m. EST Monday, Jan. 24, that Local 436 has delayed the planned strike and would take the last offer received from the commission back to its members for a vote. 

Until union members vote, the turnpike will operate as usual, toll road officials said in a statement.

A strike, if it does take place, would be the first since the road first opened in 1955, The Associated Press reported.

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

Turnpike officials had warned of a possible strike late in 2004. But the prospect became much more real earlier this month when union workers voted overwhelmingly to reject a fact finder’s report that would have prevented a strike.

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.

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

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, Suhadolnik said.

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.

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