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Ohio legislation would revoke strike option; Lawmakers say regional transit strike should not be repeated.; NEW DETAILS

Ohio   ·   Public Transportation   ·   Dayton Daily News

Bus service from RTA resumed on Friday after a tentative agreement was made by the Amalgamated Transit Union and RTA. The Wright Stop Plaza Transit Center was very busy on Friday.

RTA pass refunds were offered at the Wright Stop Transit Centers in Dayton on Friday.

Two state House Republicans intend to introduce legislation to prohibit Ohio's public transit unions from starting strikes like the one suffered last week by the Greater Dayton RTA, this newspaper has learned.

State Reps. Mike Henne and Jeff Rezabek - both Republicans from Clayton - intend to "introduce legislation requiring transit employee unions and local transit authorities to submit to binding community arbitration," according to an internal Ohio House memo obtained by the newspaper.

State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg, is also considering legislative action to revoke the union's strike option.

"I think we need to have a discussion around the best solution to make sure this can never happen again," said Antani, who worked to bring the parties to the table on the eve of the strike. "Just like police and fire, the RTA is an essential service for these people trying to get to work and provide a livelihood to their families."

Antani has asked for draft language on a proposal to allow the governor to call and personally negotiate binding arbitration. Additionally, Antani is exploring ways to re-arrange the Greater Dayton RTA board to give the City of Dayton more appointments.

The memo from Henne illustrates the impact of strikes not only on riders, but "businesses and the local economy by preventing employees from getting to work and consumers from reaching their destinations."

"With police and fire, we do not allow them to strike and we require them to go to binding arbitration because they provide a service that cannot be interrupted," Henne said in an interview. "My contention is the regional transit authorities have an economic value to the community that should not be interrupted."

Under the proposal, the union and transit authority would each select a representative in the community to negotiate on their behalf. Together, the representatives would select a mutually agreeable third party from the community as an arbiter.

Tim Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO, an umbrella organization of unions, said binding arbitration is an option already open to and used by unions. When Ohio established its collective bargaining laws in the 1980s, safety forces were mandated to use binding arbitration because their services are considered essential.

"Strike is something the unions and workers take very seriously. It's a last effort to come to a resolution when you have an employer not bargaining in good faith," Burga said.

Ohio Senate Minority L eader Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman, said, "Nobody wants strikes. Nobody likes strikes. But when you take it off the table it tilts the balance of power in negotiations. I think there is probably a better way to deal with this issue."

The public hasn't always agreed with the decisions on collective bargaining made by Ohio lawmakers. In 2011, voters soundly rejected Senate Bill 5, which would have outlawed strikes by Ohio's 360,000 public employees, eliminate binding arbitration used by police and firefighters, wipe out automatic pay increases and require workers to pay at least 15 percent of their health care costs and all of their pension contributions.

Although voters rejected that proposal, Republicans in the legislature have attempted to slowly erode worker rights ever since, according to Schiavoni.

Henne hopes the transit union legislation is better received by the public than Senate Bill 5 was in 2011.

"We failed with our legislation on Senate Bill 5," Henne said. "It took the hammer from one person to the other in many cases. The voters told us that."

Henne and Antani individually expressed concerns about binding arbitration, with Antani saying the practice "usually prefers one side over the other." Henne said he hoped his proposal will be "more palatable" than traditional arbitration.

Glenn Salyer, president of the union representing drivers and mechanics at RTA, said he prefers binding arbitration and offered RTA the option to engage in it several times.

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