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Antioch University Midwest, union at odds

Antioch University Midwest management has implemented its latest contract proposal over a union’s protests, the university said.

The union, United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America Local 796, called the implementation illegal. The local’s leaders argue that the university’s move is a sign of the university’s deeper financial strains. The union represents 13 clerical employees.

“The school needs to get back to paying attention to recruitment and retention,” said Dennis Painter, an international representative for the union.

AUM is the Yellow Springs campus of a private university with five campuses in New England, Seattle, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. AUM should not be confused with the reopened Antioch College, a liberal arts college also in Yellow Springs.

Painter contends that AUM has lost enrollment, down to about 400 students from 800. The National Center for Education Statistics puts the campus’ total enrollment in the fall of 2011 (the most recent numbers available) at 545 students, with undergraduate enrollment at 142.

The campus faces a budget deficit of $3 million, nearly a third of its operating budget, according to Diana Tomas, an AUM financial aid coordinator and Local 796 president.

Tomas said AUM has not responded to all of the union’s requests for information, including a full copy of AUM’s budget.

Tomas said she doesn’t know how many union jobs will be in AUM’s next budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. She said her own position is among those that may be cut.

Painter said last week no new talks are scheduled.

Ellen Hall, AUM president, released a statement to the Dayton Daily News, saying in part: “We have negotiated in good faith during this time and have never considered taking any action that could be classified as ‘union busting.’”

AUM implemented its latest contract proposal on Friday.

Hall said AUM and the university are at an impasse. The sides have had 39 meetings since the last contract expired in October 2011, her statement said.

“The university presented its full and final proposal to the union on December 12, 2012 and has repeatedly requested meetings with the union since that date,” Hall said. “During those five months, the union has had the option to present a counter proposal to the university. Since none has been forthcoming, the university intends to implement the December 2012 offer.”

AUM spokesman Matt Cookson said that student enrollment has fallen, “paralleling a trend across Ohio higher education institutions.”

Area filmmaker Julia Reichert, who lives in Yellow Springs, gave AUM’s commencement address May 19. She said the dispute is on the community’s radar. Reichert, whose father was a union member, went off-script during her address to reference the situation.

“To me, it should be obvious that they can work this out,” Reichert said.

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