Navigation Bar

Home -> UE News -> 1999 Archives -> Article


Local 791-Ohio Turnpike —
Contracts Strengthen
Unity of Part-Time,
Full-Time Workers

CLEVELAND, Ohio

Local 791 bargaining committee
The Local 791 bargaining committee that reached an agreement with the Ohio Turnpike Committee for full-time workers. From left, Sherri Nelson, John Arvai (in the back), Eileen Ginley, Gary Coon, Donna Antos and Juanita Wright. (Not pictured are Mike Haynes and Jim Roudebush.)

Ohio Turnpike workers, members of UE Local 791, have negotiated and approved two new three-year contracts — one covering 600 full-time toll collectors and maintenance workers, the other covering 290 part-time toll collectors. Both agreements provide 3 percent wage increases each year.

Local 791 made gains in the Turnpike Commission’s recognition of the unity of both groups of workers, through provisions that strengthen the grievance procedure and allow the union more freedom to properly represent its members. Most significantly, the expiration dates for the full-time and part-time contracts, which had been 18 months apart, will now be just two months apart — greatly increasing the local’s ability to act as one union.

PROBLEM

One of the more difficult issues confronting UE negotiators arose from the Commission’s plan to change the way the money taken in by each toll collector is counted up, reconciled with the transactions for the shift, and prepared for bank deposit. The Commission plans a new system that it says would eliminate the need for toll collectors to "check-out" and prepare bank deposits at the end of each shift.

Under the Ohio Public Employee Bargaining Act, the Turnpike has the right, without bargaining, to make such changes in methods of operation, but must bargain over pay issues. The contract had provided that toll collectors working exit lanes get paid 30 minutes overtime per shift for "check-in" and "check-out." Turnpike negotiators wanted this provision out of the contract.

The union committee strongly resisted this change. But the union also knew that if the issue went before a state fact-finder, it may be hard to win the argument that workers should get paid for work they may no longer be performing. Local 791 also knew from past experience that fact-finders side with management on most issues. So with time running out on bargaining, UE negotiators told Turnpike representatives that if they wanted to remove the check-out provision, they’d have to pay for it.

PAYOFF

The agreement reached on this issue says the "check-out" provision will remain in effect until June 30, 1999, and then expire. Full-time toll collectors will receive a $2,000 bonus on July 1, 1999 and a $2,000 bonus on July 1, 2000. Maintenance workers will get $1,000 on July 1, 1999 and $500 on July 1, 2000.

Early retirement will be offered for a 15-month period starting July 1; the Turnpike Commission will "buy" three additional years of service, under the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System, for any employee who would thus be eligible to retire and who chooses to retire. Workers opting for the early retirement buyout will not receive the cash bonuses.

Also in exchange for the check-out provision, the Commission agreed that starting next year, 25 percent of all full-time toll schedules will include two weekends off per month. Currently most collectors get only one weekend off per month; the two-weekend schedules will be awarded by seniority when workers annually bid on schedules.

Toll collectors will continue to be paid at time and a half for all work over eight hours. Therefore if the Commission’s new toll system doesn’t work as planned, and workers must stay past the end of the shift while supervisors complete the new check out procedure, the workers will continue to get overtime pay.

PART TIMERS ADVANCE

Part-time toll collectors had been working without a contract since their first agreement expired July 1, 1997. Following a bargaining impasse, a state fact-finder conducted a hearing on the part-time contract issues. When the fact-finder’s recommendations failed to address part-timers’ concerns, the workers voted in August 1997 to reject his report. Despite a union campaign of informational picketing and other actions, the Turnpike Commission still refused to budge, and in the fall of 1997 part-time members decided that their best bet was to wait for full-time negotiations in late 1998.

The Turnpike had stubbornly opposed UE’s efforts, starting in 1992, to bring the unorganized part-time workers into the union. With legal stalling tactics the Commission delayed the vote for a year and a half, until March 1994. Although UE won that vote, the Commission apparently clung to the hope that it could eventually eliminate the union among the part timers.

During the 1997 talks, the Commission committed a series of unfair labor practices. It fired a part-time chief steward, stopped the union from posting legally-required notices of the fact-finding vote and published a series of "fact sheets" urging workers to decertify the union, among other illegal acts. After the State Employment Relations Board issued complaints for these violations, the Commission and union negotiated settlements to end the unfair labor practices.

But there was no part-time contract, and in a session as late as Dec. 8, 1998, the Turnpike offered a worse package to the part-timers than it had offered previously.

Negotiators for Local 791’s full-time workers decided that they could not settle their contract and leave part-time workers out in the cold. January 29 was the last day of bargaining on the full-time contract; both sides agreed that if they couldn’t reach agreement then, they were going to fact finding. Late that evening, with the full-time agreement nearly resolved, the two sides discussed and reached an agreement in principle on a contract for the part timers.

The part-time contract will expire March 1, 2002, while the full-time agreement runs until Jan. 1, 2002. Part-time workers get a 3 percent raise each year, and those whose service goes back to July 1, 1997 will get a bonus of $100 or $50 on July 1, 1999 (depending on number of hours worked in 1998.)

Part-time workers will for the first time be covered by a fair share provision, by which all must either be members of the union or pay the union an equivalent service fee. The grievance procedure is simplified, and stewards and chief stewards from the full-time bargaining unit will be able to represent part-time workers on grievances.

In a step that recognizes the unity of all Local 791 members, the Commission agreed that the union may designate part-time workers to serve on the Labor-Management Relations Committee and on the joint Safety and Health Committee.

OTHER FULL-TIME CHANGES

Vacation scheduling was improved for full-time workers. The percentage of toll collectors at each toll plaza who may take vacation at the same time is increased from 15 to 18 percent. Maintenance workers who take multiple vacation periods in a year will choose up to four such selections by seniority, instead of just two. Toll collectors requesting "H-days" (paid days off to make up for working a holiday) will get a response within three days of the request; delayed responses had been a problem.

The grievance procedure is improved by allowing 10 days for the filing of any grievance; allowing the local president (as well as stewards) to file a general grievance affecting multiple members, and allowing the president to represent a member at any step. The number of days allowed Local 791 for executive board members to attend meetings is increased from 60 per year to 70. The union may have an officer on a full-time union leave for a year, renewable for up to two additional years, starting in the year 2000. The Commission will promptly notify the local president of any accident resulting in an employee death or life-threatening injury.

Summer overtime procedure for maintenance workers are spelled out. Hours not actually worked (sick leave etc.) will not count in determining when overtime pay begins, but workers will continue to receive time and a half when ordered to work on any day other than a normal or scheduled workday.

The UE full-time negotiating committee consisted of President Sherri Nelson and Chief Stewards Donna Antos, John Arvai, Gary Coon, Eileen Ginley, Mike Haynes, Juanita Wright and Jim Roudebush. The part-time negotiating committee included President Nelson and Chief Stewards Lane Shafer and Cathy Herrlich. Also serving on the part-time committee in 1997 were Burt Blue, Pat Blanchard, and Mary Lou Ivan. The committees were assisted by Field Org. Al Hart and Genl. Pres. John Hovis.

UE News - 03/99


Home -> UE News -> 1999 Archives -> Article

Home  About UE  Organize!  Independent Unions  Search  Site Guide  What's New  Contact UE
UE News  Political Action  Info for Workers  Resources  Education  Health & Safety  International  Links

Copyright 2003 UE. All Rights Reserved