RTA strike threatens disabled persons, hundreds of factory workers

The union representing the Greater Dayton RTA drivers and mechanics will strike Jan. 9 if a contract deal is not reached. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

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The union representing the Greater Dayton RTA drivers and mechanics will strike Jan. 9 if a contract deal is not reached. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

Dayton mayor tells transit authority, union chiefs: ‘Behave’ like leaders.

Hundreds of manufacturing employees and dozens of severely disabled residents who rely on public transit buses, trolleys and Project Mobility vehicles will be affected by a Greater Dayton RTA strike.

Without an agreement Sunday — when RTA executives and officials with Amalgamated Transit Union 1385 will meet for negotiations under a 15-hour deadline — the services provided to the system’s 30,000 daily riders will sharply retract to essential medical transportation and limited fixed-route services.

LATEST: RTA, union will meet 15 hours ahead of strike deadline

“We’re trying to brainstorm solutions, but the best-case solution is the sides can come to an agreement and there’s no work shortage,” said Doug Barry, president of local workforce firm Barry Staff.

He said “hundreds” of employees — roughly 45 percent of Barry Staff’s workforce serving local factories and businesses — will be without transportation.

“If we can’t come together, there will be a lot of companies in Dayton who don’t have employees,” he said.

‘Huge impact’

The impasse between labor and RTA management threatens about $6,000 in daily operating revenue for United Rehabilitation Services of Greater Dayton, a nonprofit agency serving about 60 disabled individuals who use Project Mobility and likely would be without rides Monday, the agency’s development director Vivian O’Connell said.

A strike plan produced by RTA and obtained by the Dayton Daily News using Ohio’s public records law shows the bus authority’s primary operations focus during a strike will be providing “limited Project Mobility services to eligible customers” traveling to and from doctor’s offices, hospitals, urgent care and dialysis centers.

MORE: Executives will drive Dayton RTA buses if strike hits

Mark Donaghy, RTA’s chief executive, said the bus authority will not have an idea about the extent of services offered until Saturday, but noted Project Mobility would at minimum run at about half its daily average fleet.

“We will not fall under their limited transportation, because it’s for people who are on dialysis or face life-threatening illness,” O’Connell said of URS clients with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease. “It’s going to have huge impact on these individuals.”

Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley is also monitoring how reduced service could impact customers and employees.

“When people with disabilities who rely on transportation are in need of that service to rely on our service, it’s important to have that asset for them,” said spokeswoman Melissa Fowler.

‘Bigger than RTA’

Workers told the Dayton Daily News they fear the strike would upend their lives.

“I ride the bus to work five days a week,” said Dennis Scott of Dayton. “I catch the bus at 5:30 in the morning and then walk three miles from the nearest bus stop to where I work in Huber Heights. My wife and I only have one vehicle, and my 89-year-old mother-in-law lives with us, so my taking our vehicle to work is not an option.”

The strike would hit lower-income and manufacturing workers especially hard, industry leaders said.

“Certainly, we don’t have a way to help them get to work,” said Paul Sacksteder, BelFlex Staffing Network director of business development. “Unfortunately, none of us are able to be at the table in these negotiations.”

MORE: DPS, Sinclair weigh in on possible Dayton RTA strike

RTA bus routes provide transportation to job sites outside Dayton, including to Vandalia, where Procter & Gamble’s distribution center and a White Castle food products division plant are located.

“If one team member is impacted externally, we’re concerned,” said Jamie Richardson, White Castle System Inc. vice president of government and shareholder relations. He noted eight second-shift workers are impacted.

Barry said he would like to see community leaders step up to address the strike.

“This is bigger than Barry Staff, it’s bigger than RTA,” he said. “It crosses socioeconomic lines.”

Dayton mayor: ‘Behave’

Local government officials outside of RTA — a taxpayer funded agency — acknowledge they lack direct authority over the negotiations, but they urged the sides to reach a detente to avoid the strike. Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said she has spoken with both sides and urged them to “behave like the leaders they are.”

“I don’t perceive them as being very far apart,” Whaley said. “My concern is this has turned into personal issues, and I’m hoping everyone can realize just how big an issue this is for the community.”

MORE: Dayton RTA chief, union leader agree: They don't like each other

The city of Dayton appoints two RTA board of trustees members. Montgomery County appoints six members and the city of Kettering appoints one. County officials also said they are monitoring the situation.

“Absolutely it’s on our minds,” said Cathy Petersen, Montgomery County spokeswoman. “We’re monitoring the situation closely and are very concerned because it’s the citizens of the county who are impacted by this.”

TELL US: Will a Dayton RTA strike impact you? We'd like to know.


CONTINUING COVERAGE

The Dayton Daily News coverage of the Greater Dayton RTA’s negotiations with union leaders will continue throughout the weekend and — if no agreement is reached — into next week. Your investment in local journalism allows the newspaper to keep our community informed.

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