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Published: Tuesday, 12/18/2001

Results of TARTA workers' contract vote tossed


The results of a contract vote Friday by TARTA bus drivers and mechanics were vacated over the weekend amid allegations of balloting irregularities.

According to transit sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, a count of ballots cast in the hotly contested Amalgamated Transit Union Local 697 ratification vote came up short compared with the number of union members who had registered at the polling place. The voting was conducted at the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority garage on West Central Avenue.

A representative from union headquarters in Washington was sent to Toledo to investigate. A union meeting has been called for 7 p.m. today at the United Auto Workers Local 12 hall to discuss the situation.

The missing ballots may have been enough to alter the results if they all were cast for the same outcome, the sources said.

Someone who identified himself only as John answered the phone yesterday afternoon at the union's office and said no one was available to comment.

Staff at union headquarters directed that an inquiry be made by facsimile transmission but then did not respond to faxed questions.

Richard Ruddell, the transit authority's general manager, declined to comment on the situation, describing it as “the union's internal business.” But he confirmed that the TARTA board of trustees canceled a meeting yesterday for which the only agenda item was a vote on the contract proposal.

The transit authority board traditionally waits for the union to approve contracts before it votes on them.

Local 697 represents 225 TARTA drivers and mechanics. Union members have been working without a contract since Nov. 1 after its previous three-year agreement expired and had rejected a contract proposal shortly before that deadline.

The transit sources said the rejected proposal, which had provided for an average 3 percent raise over each of four years, had been brought back unchanged for a second vote Friday and that the balloting was expected to be extremely close.

TARTA's highest-paid drivers receive $16.70 per hour.

Under the proposal's terms, their pay would rise 50 cents an hour during each of the first three years and 56 cents per hour in the final year.

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