Strike out: CAO, Head Start union reach deal

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 31, 2005

Head Start students will head to school as usual today, and so will their teachers, bus drivers, cooks and janitors.

The Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 170 and the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization reached an agreement Sunday that prevented union members from going on strike this morning. The agreement came after a five-hour last-minute bargaining session.

OAPSE Field Representative

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Karen Kuehne said the union, which represents more than 100 Head Start workers, including bus drivers, day care workers and custodial workers, was not able to obtain a guarantee of hours but was able to obtain language in the contract that requires CAO officials to sit down with them and discuss finances if the Head Start program's funding changes dramatically during the life of the contract.

The contract also has reopeners the second and third years of the pact, with the union having the right to strike if reopener discussions fail.

The 80 eligible union members voted to the contract Sunday. The vote tally was 43 in favor of the agreement, 12 against.

"Obviously, we're very pleased that the work stoppage was averted," CAO Director of Human Resources James Ingram said. "More importantly, the services to the children and families of Ironton and Lawrence County will be unaffected."

Kuehne said the union members were willing to stay on the job in

spite of not having obtained job and benefit security because they realized the importance of Head Start to the community.

"Given the type of services we provide and the importance of the program, these people felt that it was very, very important that they give serious consideration to this (contract proposal) before going on that line. They love Lawrence County, they love this program and they love what they do."

The two sides had been at odds over the issue of job and benefit security after the CAO opted to reduce hours for some employees, leaving them ineligible for health care benefits.

The old contract expired Dec. 31.