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Council votes to end collective bargaining

Shoaff's voting switch puts measure on hold 2 weeks

Fort Wayne City Council members voted along party lines Tuesday night to end collective bargaining for all city employees who are not police or firefighters.

But a last-minute parliamentary move by member John Shoaff, D-at large, automatically puts the measure on hold for two weeks and prevents it from having any legal force until then.

The move also pushes back a vote to override a mayoral veto until June 24.

John Crawford, R-at large, and Russ Jehl, R-2nd, proposed three bills:

•The first – approved Tuesday – eliminates collective bargaining for all city employees not in public safety

•The second option would eliminate collective bargaining rights for the six nonpublic safety unions and replace them with two unions created by the city – one for City Utilities workers and another for civil city employees

•The third proposal would eliminate all nine unions, including those for police and firefighters. Only Crawford proposed the third option; Jehl did not support it.

The second and third proposals were tabled indefinitely; the second because it became a moot point after passage of the first, and the third tabled when it became clear it did not have the votes to pass.

In the committee session of the council's three-step approval process, members voted 6-3 to approve the first option, eliminating collective bargaining for all city workers who are not in the fire or police departments.

But in the regular session, when the measure was getting final approval, Shoaff switched his vote from no to yes – allowing him to make a written request that the proposal be reconsidered.

Reconsideration is an obscure parliamentary move that allows a member on the winning side to ask for a re-vote if they have changed their mind.

In this case, it means that the bill, which would have taken effect immediately, is automatically held for two weeks.

On June 10, the council will consider Shoaff's motion to reconsider: If approved, the council will vote again on the question; the mayor then has 10 days to sign or veto it, and the council could vote June 24 to override the expected veto. It takes six votes to override.

Despite the delay, reaction was intense, with more than an hour of public comment on the issue.

Jeremy Bush, president of the Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters Local 124, said he was disgusted by the repeal, even though his members are not affected.

“It's the most disgusting thing I've ever been a part of,” Bush said afterward. “I'm ashamed to call myself a Republican.”

Others said it was hypocritical of the council to say collective bargaining must be repealed to save money, eliminate waste and increase flexibility for some employees and not for others.

Bruce Getts, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 723, pointed out that many of Crawford's arguments against unions apply only to the public safety unions spared from repeal.

Crawford had previously said collective bargaining should be eliminated because it requires some workers to be paid while they sleep and pay union presidents to do union work.

“The take-home cars, the paid union presidents – that's all on the public safety side,” Getts said. “They're going to take 40 years of collective bargaining and tear it down in two weeks.”

Tom Didier, R-3rd, said he couldn't support repealing collective bargaining for public safety unions because “I look at them on a different level,” which brought jeers from the large union crowd.

Jehl, who proposed the two other bills with Crawford, said that while he applauded Crawford for his proposal, “I don't believe in throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

Attorney Tim Pape, a former council member who presented on behalf of Mayor Tom Henry, said Henry stands by his contention there should be an independent study of the issue.

Hines made a motion to hold the three proposals until the study was done, but that effort failed 6-3 along party lines.

Democrats Hines, Shoaff and Geoff Paddock opposed the repeal of collective bargaining; Republicans Crawford, Jehl, Didier, Marty Bender, Mitch Harper and Tom Smith voted yes.