Wright State, Teamsters reps continue to negotiate

Aerial shot of Wright State University's Fairborn campus. FILE
Aerial shot of Wright State University's Fairborn campus. FILE

Talks not going well, union steward said, but set to resume next week

Representatives of a Teamsters bargaining unit and Wright State University continue to talk as the university wrestles with the new environment created by the global pandemic.

Talks currently aren’t going well, said Tom Bellew, chief steward for Teamsters Local 957. But the sides are scheduled to meet again next Tuesday.

The Teamsters say no pay raises are being proposed for the duration of a contract, which would last until Aug. 31, 2022.

The university also wants to add 10 furlough days to the contract and wants to strip protection language that prevents Wright State from contracting out department work, as the union describes the proposal.

On Tuesday, the university released a statement, saying: “The Wright State bargaining team is hopeful and optimistic about reaching agreement with its Teamsters employees. The university values the work that these employees perform. They provide a valuable service to the university, and most importantly, our students. As the university continues to navigate these challenging times, it is prepared to continue operations as it drives toward fiscal sustainability so Wright State can be the public, four-year university the Dayton region and Ohio need it to be.”

Teamsters members working for Wright State had been set to vote on a contract proposal in mid-March, before the COVID-19 pandemic upended everything, including higher education.

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Wright State eventually pulled its proposal from consideration, as Bellew describes the situation.

The university laid off workers and eliminated positions in June, moves affecting about 50 employees.

“I can say negotiations aren’t going good,” Bellew said Tuesday. “What we’re hoping to accomplish is some movement by the university, so we’re not losing jobs and possibly some money savings that we can provide to them.”

He said a work stoppage of some kind is a possibility, but he did not elaborate on that.

The local’s most recent contract expired Aug. 31, 2018. When talks had reached no resolution in January 2020, the union filed a notice with the State Employment Relations Board that it would begin striking the university Feb. 3. But that strike was averted by continued meetings at the last moment.

“We were supposed to vote (on the latest contract proposal) March 12,” Bellew said. “And the governor (Mike DeWine) put the restrictions on March 9, so the university and the union agreed to postpone the vote. When we finally figured out a way to do it, the university had pulled their proposal.”

Wright State endured a three-week strike of faculty members early in 2018. The Wright State chapter of the American Association of University Professors' strike was thought to be the longest college faculty strike in Ohio history, having totaled 20 days by the time resolution was reached in mid-February 2019.

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