Collective Bargaining Too Controversial For Fort Wayne Democrats
The Fort Wayne City Council launched what is likely to be a difficult discussion about the future of collective bargaining for their public employees. In a six to two vote the city council voted to introduce three resolutions that would to varying degrees reduce or eliminate public sector unions in Fort Wayne. Interestingly, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported Council President Marty Bender (R-At Large), himself a public sector employee, voting in favor of the measure in spite of his absence from the meeting. Councilman John Shoaff (D-At Large) joined the council Republicans present to allow introduction.
This meeting only offered the bills for introduction, which would allow for discussion at the next meeting, but apparently the mere discussion of this issue is too controversial for some Democrats. Dan Stockman of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reports Councilman Glenn Hines (D-6) argued passionately against even having the discusion, saying, “I think these three bills are kind of like telling me to choose between lethal injection, firing squad or hanging, and I haven’t committed a crime. It’s ‘No,’ ‘No,’ and ‘Hell, no.’”
Wages and infrastructure costs tend to be the most significant issues facing city governments attempting to manage budgets. The council should be applauded for having the courage to open a discussion on the issue in spite of the city employees and their fellow council members trying to prevent the discussion from happening. Every option needs to be on the table and the unions should be prepared to justify why they make so much more when compared with their colleagues in county government. Councilman John Crawford (R-At Large) said, “The proposed legislation is all about the taxpayer. The City will always have to pay its employees market wages and benefits; we should not have to pay above market values. Allen County government has no unionized work force. Comparable positions, in each government unit, show the City employee is paid more in wages and benefits,” according to city council’s press release about the legislation included in Dean Jackson’s story on WOWO-AM/FM’s website about the meeting.
Councilman Shoaff indicated that his support for introduction doesn’t mean he’s opposed to the concept of collective bargaining. He does feel that there is merit in a conversation about the issue. Councilman Russ Jehl (R-2), who introduced the bills with Councilman Crawford, said, “My task is to do what’s best for the city in the long run, and my first responsibility is to the taxpayers. Nine unions limit management control,” reported Kevin Leininger of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel.
Yesterday’s meeting consisted mostly of public sector employees expressing their disappointment and frustration with the city council’s decision to introduce this legislation. Next week there will be a more expansive discussion on the pros and cons of considering collective bargaining. Six unions represent 532 non-public safety city employees while three unions represent the 751 public safety union members. It is widely expected that if the city council passes any of the collective bargaining bills that Mayor Tom Henry will veto the legislation. Six votes are required to override the mayor’s veto in Fort Wayne.