June 19--Simmering tensions between the leader of the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Agency and the union that represents its employees appeared to boil over during an incident last month at an RTA office.
Mark Donaghy, RTA executive director, has prohibited Glenn Salyer, president of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1385, from agency properties after a May 8 incident during which Salyer initially refused to leave an RTA facility at 600 Longworth St.
RTA officials called Dayton police to escort Salyer from the building after a meeting. A police report says that Salyer left without incident after a brief conversation with two officers.
Salyer's RTA building entrance key card was disabled after the incident and he says he has been unable to do his job as president of a unit that represents 550 RTA employees.
Donaghy said employee grievance hearings must be held at "neutral" locations until Salyer acknowledges in writing, and pledges to respect, RTA's code of conduct for employees on agency property.
Salyer says he respects Donaghy's right to draft RTA policies. But he wants Donaghy to respect the union's right to file grievances and seek arbitration of disputes.
"The only conflict we have is with the current president of the union, who has an interesting way of approaching the contract," Donaghy said.
"I get along great with all the other management people," Salyer said. "Mark and I just don't agree. But I'm sorry: My job is to protect the members and their rights."
The conflict between the two leaders has at times seemed personal. In a May 9 email Salyer shared with the Dayton Daily News -- drafted a day after RTA called police to escort Salyer from the Longworth building -- Donaghy wrote Salyer: "OK, I guess you want to do this the hard way. Why am I not surprised. Please confirm that you are rejecting my offer to meet and resolve this matter."
Donaghy charges Salyer with attempting to re-negotiate the union's contract by filing numerous grievances. Salyer contends that Donaghy has failed to process grievances in a timely fashion.
Last year, the local unit filed an "unfair labor practice" charge with the State Employment Relations Board, alleging that RTA violated the law by refusing to process grievances filed on behalf of union members.
An RTA manager of employee and labor relations testified before the state board that she sent grievances back "if she determines the grievance is not proper," according to a board order.
The board in April told RTA to follow the mandates of the negotiated grievance procedure.
"Once the grievance procedure was bargained (in the union's contract), the employer has a duty to follow the mandates of the procedure," the order said.
Donaghy says grievances are down in 2014 compared to previous years, and RTA has good relations with most rank-and-file ATU members. But Salyer counters that grievances are down because Donaghy doesn't process them.
Donaghy does not believe the situation is taking up an inordinate amount of his time or RTA's money. In the past year, four employee grievance cases went to arbitration, he said. RTA's maximum out-of-pocket expense for attorneys in these cases is $72,000, he said.
Board backs Donaghy
While some 60 ATU grievances were filed in 2013 -- with the great majority of them, about 45, being decided in favor of management -- fewer than five have been filed so far in 2014, according to documents provided by Donaghy.
Grievances are settled through "mutual agreement by both parties on a solution," often by a union officer and an RTA manager, Donaghy said.
Said Donaghy, "I don't think there's any big problem. It's a problem with him (Salyer)."
Said Salyer: "I can't see Mark being the police, the judge and mayor when it comes to his opinion."
Franz Hoge, president of RTA's Board of Trustees, said he and fellow trustees support Donaghy.
"The board has total confidence that the matter was handled properly," Hoge said.
A spokesman for the ATU in Washington, David Roscow, sent the Daily News a statement, calling the situation "management by bullying, trying to create a circus atmosphere to deny the workers their right to representation. We call upon RTA executive director Mark Donaghy to resolve this quickly without the need for labor unrest."
Asked about the reference to "labor unrest," Roscow said, "We just mean possible bad relations between management and drivers."
With a 2012 budget of $33 million, RTA operates 29 transportation routes across the Dayton region. It has 650 employees.
Copyright 2014 - Dayton Daily News, Ohio