Striking bus drivers hold out for forced-dues

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Union bigs send rank-and-file to war over non-member payments to union

Neither side on the strike involving the Portage Area Regional Transportation Authority and its union drivers are making a move. Striking drivers represented by the Ohio Association of Public School Employees are nearing their first week on the picket line.

Lloyd Rains, OAPSE regional director, read a letter at Thursday night's PARTA board meeting from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Tim Ryan that urged "both sides to settle through the good faith bargaining process."

PARTA and OAPSE are split over the issue of "fair share," which requires nonunion drivers to pay a percentage of their gross pay, estimated by the union at 2 percent, to the union as an "administrative fee."

PARTA General Manager John Drew said he sees fair share as a money grab by the union, which may not have as many firm supporters as it claims.

The union claims 65 or so drivers as members. PARTA said it has had at least 16 drivers cross the picket line each day.

Drew said he has no objection to collecting union dues, but objects to fair share, "first, because it's just not right."

"I feel very uncomfortable telling someone they have to pay money to someone," Drew said.

While many local OAPSE contracts include fair share, PARTA officials said it is rare to have it in a first contract, as with PARTA.

After a nearly two hour executive session, Drew said there is no change in PARTA's position.

Drew said bus service continues as before the strike without interruption.

So far, pickets have not prevented buses from leaving or entering PARTA headquarters in Franklin Township.

However, there have been some near misses, officials said. PARTA spokesman Frank Hairston said a picket sign blocked the vision of a driver pulling out, nearly causing a collision with car on Summit Road.

The two sides are now in their third year of negotiations on a first contract. The last time both sides met was Sunday with a federal mediator. No new talks are scheduled.

PARTA carries some 7,700 riders daily, with about 5,700 coming from the campus bus service on the Kent State University campus.


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