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Teamsters overwhelmingly reject WSU fact-finder’s report

Published: Thursday, December 12, 2019 @ 8:12 AM

An aerial view of Wright State University's campus. Wright State leaders have been paying close attention to the university's budget as the school tries to correct years of overspending. FILE
An aerial view of Wright State University's campus. Wright State leaders have been paying close attention to the university's budget as the school tries to correct years of overspending. FILE

Members of Teamsters Local 957 Wednesday rejected a state fact-finder’s report that sifted through five areas of contention between the union and Wright State University.

The tally was 87 votes to reject the report’s findings and three votes to accept them, said Dayton attorney John Doll, who represents the local.

“Pretty overwhelming,” Doll said.

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He said talks between the union and the university have been stymied by five open issues — including a university-proposed parking-fee increase for bargaining unit members, changes in seniority employment rights and the addition of 10 furlough days in which Wright State could lay off workers without pay each year.

Wages and a union-desired health insurance plan also remain open issues, Doll said.

The bargaining unit represents about 115 Wright State maintenance workers, drivers, groundskeepers, custodians and other workers. Some 10 university Lake Campus workers are also counted in the membership.

“Generally, people were not pleased” with the report, Doll said. “They were not happy with it.”

“The fact-finder sees the option of furlough days as a means of employees spreading the burden around versus layoffs,” wrote the fact-finder, Carol Bader, a Toledo attorney. “They are useful for lesser financial crises, rather than placing the full burden on a few laid-off employees.”

However, Bader disagreed with the university on two points, saying the number of furlough days should be capped at five, not 10, and if work requires overtime, then members should be permitted to work — mirroring similar provisions in a contract with police employees, Bader wrote.

Tentative agreement has been reached on a number of other issues. “But on these five issues, we have no tentative agreement at all,” Doll said.

The next steps include reporting the result to the university and state government and resuming negotiations, Doll said.

A copy of a Teamsters-university contract on a university web site gives the contract duration as Sept. 1, 2015 to Aug. 31, 2018.

A message was left the Columbus attorney representing the state of Ohio in the matter of the report, Christopher Hogan.

Wright State released a prepared statement, saying: “As is the case in most fact-finding situations, the report does not give either side the entirety of what each party sought through this process. However, the university will not be taking action to reject the report and would welcome acceptance of this report by the Teamsters membership so that we can begin to move forward together.”

Years of scandal, financial issues and legal problems have plagued Wright State. In June 2017, university trustees slashed more than $30 million from the fiscal year 2018 budget and another $10-million decline in revenue was expected after that.

But progress has been made. The university has doubled cash reserves over the last two years, from around $31 million in 2017 to more than $60 million as of this fall.

Provost Susan Edwards will officially become Wright State’s new president Jan. 1, replacing outgoing President Cheryl Schrader.