The union representing the Greater Dayton RTA drivers and mechanics filed an intent to strike effective Jan. 9, the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1385 announced. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees
Photo: Ty Greenlees

Union sets strike that would halt Dayton RTA service next month

Drivers, mechanics at odds with transit authority over pay and insurance.

The strike could strand the system’s roughly 30,000 daily riders — including workers, shoppers, the disabled and Dayton public students — for the first time in nearly six decades, according to union and transit officials.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1385 on Wednesday sent the State Employment Relations Board and Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority a 10-day notice ahead of the strike involving 463 employees. The two parties remain at odds over pay and health insurance costs.

“We have done everything we can to get a new contract,” Glenn Salyer, the union’s president, told the Dayton Daily News. “We tried for almost two years. We got multiple proposals. They were just the same proposals re-worded, and they never addressed our proposals.”

Mark Donaghy, the RTA’s chief executive, rejected the union’s statements Wednesday, arguing an offer made last week “is fair” and “represents the limit of what we can provide” union membership. Donaghy has said the union’s most recent proposal — a “non-starter” — would increase RTA’s costs by $3 million.

“We are truly disappointed by the union’s decision to strike, which will leave thousands of our region’s citizens unable to travel to work or access medical and social needs,” Donaghy said in a written statement.

Salyer told this newspaper that union picketers “will not stand in (the) way” of RTA’s medical transportation services.

RTA officials indicate a plan is ready to provide limited service “should enough qualified drivers become available.” The newspaper, using Ohio’s public records law, has requested the RTA provide it a copy of the plan.

Last week’s offer by RTA proposed 2 percent wage increases each year of the three-year contract and up to a 10.5 percent wage increase for Project Mobility drivers. Donaghy also said RTA offered the union three options for structuring an additional 2 percent cash incentive. But Salyer said the union seeks back pay from 2015 and argued the pay increase would not cover the increased insurance costs.

A statement Wednesday from RTA asserts the average bus operator earned $62,996 in 2015, while the average maintenance employee earned $69,190. Further, the authority said “employees also receive a benefit package far superior to and more costly than private sector workers.”

Salyer, a Project Mobility operator, earned $51,265 in 2015, according to the Dayton Daily News I-Team Payroll Project. Donaghy, the CEO since 2006, earned gross pay of $218,710 in 2015 — up nearly 20 percent from his 2008 gross benefits of $183,034, according to the newspaper’s archives.

In April, an I-Team analysis of RTA payroll data found the five bus drivers who earned more than $100,000 last year each pulled in more than $27,000 in overtime. The RTA in 2013 told the I-Team it had a handle on the issue, with Salyer declaring the days of drivers earning six figures were “long gone.”

The strike would be the first to hit Dayton’s buses and trolleys since the 1960s, union officials said. The two parties bitterly sparred in 1994, but were able to avoid a strike through negotiations, the Dayton Daily News reported then.

Dayton Public Schools administrators are aware of the strike date, but did not immediately comment on the impact the strike could have on students and employees.

NewsCenter 7’s Natalie Jovonovich contributed reporting.

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