Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Miami worker strike delayed

Mediator asks for another try

By Jon Gambrell
Enquirer contributor

OXFORD - At the request of a state mediator, a possible strike by Miami University support staff workers will be delayed until Friday, allowing one last-ditch negotiating session between union representatives and the administration.

Patricia Snyder, the executive director of the State Employment Relations Board, confirmed a mediator assigned to the Miami University dispute was working with the parties, but declined further comment.

University spokeswoman Holly Wissing said both sides had agreed to negotiations set for Thursday.

Randy Marcum, president of Local 209, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said the strike would begin Friday at 12:01 a.m. "We'd like to see a signed contract come out of this, but I think we and the university are just too far apart on the issues," he said.

The roughly 900 workers in Local 209 are asking the administration for a "living wage," claiming their pay is far below those in similar positions at other universities.

The administration says worker salaries, based on a "broadband" hourly pay plan, are fair when added with their benefits package.

While some of the faculty are expected to honor the workers' picket lines, it's not clear what impact the strike will have on students.

University officials expect normal operations to continue, and have hired temporary workers in case of a strike.

Meanwhile, more students are entering the strike debate.

A letter signed by several student organizations will be sent today to university President James Garland. "We (the students) are the shareholders of the university," said freshman political science major Heather Ratliff, a member of the student-run Miami University Fair Labor Coalition. "We do have a say in how the university spends its money and we hope they will treat their workers humanely."


E-mail jgambrell@fuse.net

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