Jan 9, 2006

CWA Announces Strike Date of January 23 At UT

(Toledo, OH) The Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 4319 announced today that it will call for a January 23 strike if an agreement cannot be worked out with the University of Toledo.

As of this moment, I have not been able to confirm if the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) will be joining the strike, should it occur.

The biggest issue causing friction between the union employees and the university is that of health care; in particular, pharmacy copayments, domestic partner benefits, and health coverage for spouses are items in which the two sides are far apart.

If it occurs, this would be the first strike in UT history.

Addendum: This is now posted on the UT website, under the happier headline of "Negotiations Continue on Health-care Contract":

Members of the UT administration and employee unions are continuing to negotiate the health-care contract, with one group setting a strike deadline.

The negotiating units will meet on Tuesday, Jan. 10, when the administration will present a counteroffer to the unions.


Anonymous said...

They will cave. No one has the backbone for a strike on either side.

historymike said...

I hope that all sides can see the need to work this out, anonymous.

The last thing a school like UT needs is a shutdown. The school already has had small decreases in enrollment over the past few years.

Anonymous said...

Will the professors strike? There can be class without janitors and maintenance (at least for a few days) but how can there be a college if AAUP goes on strike, too?

Hooda Thunkit said...

Even governmental and quasi-governmental are facing the same issues that the auto industry is currently going through.

Everyone is just beginning to realize the scope of the problem and that none of us is immune...

historymike said...

At some point we have to get past the tired old "lazy union workers" argument to blame for our ills.

How do we get out of this cycle of cut-cut-cut and get back to prosperity?

Big Tex Cowboy said...

Follow up to the story, HM:

The strike date was set early last week...and the university negotiators were aware of it...and very discouraged because of it.

I spoke with Jeannie Hartig, representing the school and the negotiating team, and she told me it was a big step backwards.

Also, the AAUP and the CWA are negotiating as one collective unit, so if one walks, the other will walk as well...even if the professors have yet to announce their strike date.

Warning: Shameless personal promotion coming:

The next negotiating session is scheduled for Wednesday, and Ms. Hartig will be on my program that evening at 6 PM to spell it all out for us.

Personal opinion: The school should stand its ground. The union workers have been paying next to NOTHING for their family health care for years...and the school is right to ask workers' spouses to use their own employers' coverage as primary...thereby decreasing costs to the school...whose revenue stream is drying up quickly.

The average UT worker is paying a paltry $50 a month for FULL FAMILY coverage...which is about 1/7 what other workers pay. I personally pay $350 a month for me and my family, through my employer, and according to those I've polled...that's right in the ballpark with everyone else.

And worse: in addition to paying my own health care premiums, which are 7 times higher than university employees (including professors, who make great salaries)...I'm also helping to pay theirs! Remember...UT is a state-funded institution...collecting my state tax dollars to help distribute them to the school. I don't think it's out of line to ask the workers at UT to start paying a more meaningful premium...in an attempt to help the school keep its programs operational without constantly raising tuition.

valbee said...

Anonymous #2, a strike by the CWA doesn't just affect how clean the bathrooms are or whether light bulbs get changed. The CWA includes all your department secretaries, library assistants, accounting clerks, financial aid counselors, mail delivery workers... the list goes on and on. Classes might be able to continue if faculty doesn't strike, but everything else will either slow way down or come to a grinding halt.

Anonymous #1, don't be too sure about the caving. From what I understand, this is the first time that both the CWA and the AAUP have authorized a strike. Should the AAUP choose to walk on the same day that the CWA has set, they have until the 13th to announce it.

And Mike... health care isn't the biggest issue - it's the entire dispute. The CWA's contract was ratified last summer, retroactive to January 1, 2005. Also, it needs to be said that an independent fact finder's report was accepted by both unions and unanimously rejected by the Board of Trustees.

historymike said...

Thanks, Bob (and you can shamelessly plug here any time). I was swamped today, and did not have time to dig into this much. I was surprised, however, that the rest of the media in town (besides Bob Frantz) has been quiet so far.

Nothing new there, right Bob? (He and I were the only media people paying much attention to the potential for violence at the October 15 rally).

I sympathize with your health care plight; we pay about $350 a month too, excluding copays, deductibles, and all the other ways our HMO tries to squeeze us.

However, I'll turn the tables: instead of focusing on those who have it good (UAW, university professors, some government workers, Peyton Manning), I would argue that the shift of the cost burden from the employer to the employee is the disturbing trend we should all be concrned about.

In addition, the 30-year trend by the state of Ohio to cut funding to higher education, in my opinion, will have long-term consequences for the state, as the demand for highly-skilled and educated workers will find its supply in places other than Ohio.

And Valbee raises another important point. In the departments where I draw part-time checks, the department secretaries are the people who really make things work. We would be able to function about nineteen minutes without them.

Anonymous said...

Re to Bob's comments: There is a trade-off relative to working for a public or private company.

At a private company, the wages are higher, but one has to pay more in health-care costs.

At a public, or state entity, the wages are lower, but one usually pays less in health-care costs.

Most people who are CWA members aren't rich (even with the current health-care plan), some taking home $20,000 or less a year (after taxes, aka the real salary) for working full time. If they paid $350 a month, that would leave many of them $15,000 or less a year to support their families with.

This isn't about "greedy" state employees or union members -- no one wants to be a millionaire in this situation. People just want to be able to support their families. And as HistoryMike pointed out, CWA members are vital to the functionality of the UT campus. Let's respect them.

Anonymous said...

Yikes! I'm returning to UT this semester as a graduate distance learning student. I'm normally an optimist, but this does not sound promising.

Mrs. Phoenix said...

Has anyone heard of UT purchasing the Palmer Gardens to future use as student housing?

historymike said...

Powerful words, anonymous #1 (who works at UT).

As a part-timer, though, even $350 a month sounds better than no benefits. I wish that our priorities were realigned so that health insurance was affordable to all.

Anonymous said...

At the root of this problem is the "pay to play" mentality that has given the greedy control of our national and state governments. They do not value public education, public health care or public anything. They do not see these things as benefitting society as a whole, hence they wish to reward themselves with big tax breaks so that executives can have huge salary increases at the expense of the little people. Did you ever see the movie "It's a Wonderful Life." We have given all the "Mr. Potters" control of our country and pushed the "George Bailey's" off the bridges. It is amazing how the attitude toward the greedy has changed since 1946. Grover Norquist, king of their crowd was a prophet when he vowed to turn back the New Deal and get rid of "all that." They are succeeding and the middle class life that our blue collar parents fought for is evaporating before our eyes.

Anonymous said...

The University of Toledo bought Palmer Gardens, a synagogue, a greenhouse, an abandoned factory, tons of land everywhere and had a vice presidents office remodeled for $250K. On top of this, there is always all kinds of construction going on on campus and they tell us, "We have no money!" Of course, they will say, "That money comes out of a different budget" but it is just a shell game. I wonder if all the purchases of these dilapidated buildings and all the construction and remodeling is related to the fact that there are so many construction company executives on the UT board of trustees?

Mrs. Phoenix said...

anonymous, can you verify that? I did look at the county AREIS and did not see UT properties including Palmer Gardens (Douglas & Pelham). Where can I find that info.?

Anonymous said...

Before you call UT a "state funded" institution you need to realize tha the state only foots 17% of the bill thanks to Gov. Shaft, the "education governor", and others. State assisted would be more accurate. The health care scale at UT is based on salary levels, I pay a little over $100.00 a month for my family. The unions have made $700,000 in concessions from the previous contract, and also agreed to make it a two year deal because of the MUO merger. And yes, the University has purchased several properties in the area over the last three years to the tune of a million or so each.