O’Connell wrote that “the court cannot determine the extent of the union’s involvement in the unlawful strike. However the court finds that the individual defendants are engaged in an unlawful strike” in violation of their union contract and Ohio law.
O’Connell’s ruling means any employees who participated in an unauthorized strike will not receive pay or other compensation for the days in question.
Jim Gollings, a regional director of the statewide OAPSE union, said at the SERB hearing that no union leadership, in Dayton or otherwise, had any role in encouraging or coordinating driver absences Friday. He pointed out that the union president was at work Friday.
The bus drivers, represented by the Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 627, have been in negotiations with the school district for months over their contract, which expired this summer. Negotiators for the two sides reached a tentative agreement last month, but the drivers rejected that deal.
In the meantime, the parties are operating under the terms of the expired contract, which says DPS will not lock out drivers, and there shall be no “strike, stoppage, slowdown or other interruption of work” by the drives.
Testimony at Monday’s SERB meeting and an affidavit submitted by the district appears to show a split among Dayton’s driver union, where a new driver became president of the local union this fall. Attorneys representing DPS suggested a recent past president of the drivers union urged members to stage a “sick-out.”
Jackson submitted an affidavit from one driver who said she was approached Thursday by multiple other drivers, asking her to come to a meeting that night and “not to let the union know” — apparently referring to union leadership, as all of the drivers are part of the union.
During the SERB hearing, Gollings and OAPSE attorney Thomas Drabick said DPS had presented no evidence that the drivers in question did not have symptoms of illness, which, during a surging COVID-19 pandemic, would make it the right thing for them to stay home.
But SERB Board Chair Craig Zimpher said the evidence of many employees meeting Thursday night then calling in within a short time span Friday morning, supported the board’s ruling.
Gollings did say he communicated with Dayton drivers on Sunday, informing them of the court injunction, and telling them if they are symptom-free, they should report to work.