Fort Wayne council debates limits on city unions

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (AP) — Hundreds of Fort Wayne city workers
and others booed at times as City Council members discussed proposals to
scale back or eliminate collective bargaining for city employees.
Councilman John Crawford said during Tuesday night’s meeting the
proposals to stop contract negotiations with unions would reduce
spending in Indiana’s second-largest city.
"There is money to be saved here in Fort Wayne," he said. "I don’t know the exact amount,
but you don’t know till you try it."
proposals sponsored by Crawford include one to eliminate collective
bargaining with all nine unions that represent city workers, with
another only continuing contract talks with unions representing public
safety workers such as police officers and firefighters.
Mayor Tom Henry has said he would veto any of the proposals, while
Republicans could use their 6-3 council majority to override such
action, The Journal Gazette and the News-Sentinel reported.
Democratic Councilman Tim Pape, who represented Henry at Tuesday’s
meeting, said the city’s budget is balanced, it has a cash reserve, and
that $16.8 million in savings have been achieved since 2008 with the
help of employees.
"This is the wrong path you’re on," Pape told council members. "You don’t get the best
people by paying the bottom rate."
Republican-dominated General Assembly in 2011 added to state law a ban
on union contracts involving state employees — a step then-Gov. Mitch
Daniels implemented by executive order the day after he took office in
Crawford maintained that members of public-sector unions earn up to 20 percent more than non-union
workers in similar jobs.
Wayne Community Schools board President Mark GiaQuinta, who represented
city unions at the meeting, argued that comparing city employees’ pay
with that of non-union Allen County employees is misleading because city
employees work 40 hours a week to 37.5 for county workers.
GiaQuinta said Crawford "wants to get rid of the unions and went out to get the statistics that make
his case."
crowd at Tuesday’s meeting spilled into two overflow rooms, with
someone shouting "We’re taxpayers too!" when Republican Councilman Russ
Jehl said the council must look out after taxpayers first.
Crawford said he expects the council to vote on the proposals next week.
contention has never been that the city is not doing well," he said.
"The contention has always been that we can do even better without
collective bargaining."