Council Considering Ending Collective Bargaining

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WOWO): Two Republican city council members will offer ordinances that end collective bargaining unionized city workers. 

Saying its a  more efficient cost-effective way to handle contracts and ultimately save tax dollars, John Crawford and Russ Jehl are offering two ordinances that would present alternative that would have city workers represented in a single, consolidated union.  

Crawford also wants another ordinance that would do away with collective bargaining for  police and firefighters. Both say it’s a more efficient cost-effective way to handle contracts and ultimately save tax dollars.

Mayor Tom Henry opposes the plan, saying quote “I don’t think we build a better Fort Wayne by beating up on employees” adding taking away a workers voice took away their dignity. 
Council will discuss all three ordinances May 20.

from a City Council Press Release

Three Bills to repeal collective bargaining introduced at City Council on Tuesday
“Two bills from Crawford-Jehl; one offered by Crawford”

City Councilmen John Crawford, R-at large and Russ Jehl, R-2nd will introduce two ordinances on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 that will call for actions on collective bargaining for the non-public safety unions.

Crawford and Jehl will be asking for the repeal of the Collective Bargaining Ordinance for the Civil City and City Utilities, or non-public safety, unions.
The second ordinance for introduction is to consider the repeal of Collective Bargaining Ordinance and replacing it with a single, consolidated non-public safety union ordinance.

The two elected officials believe it to be in the best interest of the City and the taxpayer to fully repeal the current Collective Bargaining Ordinance. An alternative ordinance for Repeal-and-Consolidate will be considered, although both councilmen believe the first option to be the better for taxpayers.
“Our responsibility to the taxpayer is to provide top notch services in a fiscally responsible manner”, stated Jehl. “The current system puts the interests of the unions above the welfare of the public. This must change”.

By The Numbers:

  • 1800—approximate number of City employees 
  • 6—number of non-public safety unions
  • 8—number of non-public safety union contracts negotiated
  • 532—number of non-public safety union members: civil city and city utilities 
  • 3—number of public safety unions and contracts negotiated
  • 751—number of public safety union members: FOP, PBA, IAFF 
  • 517—approximate number of non-unionized City employees 

The Federal and State governments do not have laws requiring local governments to engage in collective bargaining with their employees. Based on financial outlays incurred during bargaining negotiations as well as decreased productivity as a result of restrictions made in agreements, the cost to the taxpayer is significant.

“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,” Crawford said. “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.”

The City Administration terminated the eight Civil City and City Utilities (non-public safety) union contracts January 1, 2014. No new contracts have yet been re-negotiated.
In a separate but related ordinance, Councilman Crawford will introduce a Bill to repeal Collective Bargaining for the three public safety unions the same evening.

As with the non-public safety unions, there are no current contracts with the City’s public safety unions.
All three introduced ordinances will commence discussions on Tuesday, May 20, 2014 at City Council’s committee session. Council meetings begin at 5:30 pm on the lower level of Citizens Square, 200 E. Berry. Meetings are open to the public.

Official Statement from Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry on Collective Bargaining

I continue to be encouraged by the positive momentum we’re experiencing in the City of Fort Wayne. I want to take this opportunity to recognize our city employees for their tremendous efforts in making our city a great place that’s positioned for positive investments now and in the future.

Unquestionably, city employees are extremely skilled, very committed, very diligent, and are some of the best in the Midwest. They have won one award after another and help make Fort Wayne the envy of the State of Indiana.

My staff and I work every day to improve the delivery and efficiency of city services with great results. Sometimes that’s meant the painful trimming of compensation and benefits to city workers, but we’ve found it’s been most effective to work in partnership with them to find new ideas and solutions to save taxpayer dollars and improve city services. Every winning organization in the world knows you need your employees to be motivated and treated with respect to achieve superior results.

Next week, City Council will consider ordinances that would possibly eliminate the ability for employees to participate in collective bargaining. I’m opposed to efforts that would take collective bargaining rights away from city employees.

Our top goal in Fort Wayne and all across northeast Indiana is to increase the number of high-wage, high-skill jobs in our region. We should be putting all our energies into achieving that goal and into the strategies that are yielding positive returns, not into a divisive, questionable idea that undermines our most important objective. Our focus in city government should not be on labor fights but on providing excellent services to support business and industry. Highly motivated employees are critical to doing so.

Simply put, I don’t think we deliver better, more affordable city services by attacking the people who deliver those services. I don’t think you win the future with last-century ideas that penalize the very people you’re depending on for new ideas and smarter solutions. I don’t think we build a better Fort Wayne by beating up on the employees who plowed snow for weeks on end without a day off, who run fearlessly into burning buildings, who turn on a dime to keep us safe. Take away a worker’s voice and you take away his or her dignity. That’s a poor message when our goal is to have the best and brightest on our team. Besides, it’s just plain wrong.

Through the efforts of all city staff, we’re leaders in engagement, innovation, and performance. Any attempts that could have a negative impact on our employees’ ability to perform their duties will not be supported by me and my administration.

Let’s win the future by working together.

Tom Henry
Mayor, City of Fort Wayne