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Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
People gather outside Citizens Square on May 13 before a City Council meeting at which an anti-collective bargaining bill was introduced.

Readers’ view: Collective bargaining for city workers

Councilmen value politics over people

This will probably go down as one of the darkest periods in Fort Wayne history: For six councilmen (all Republicans) to take away from the hard-working men and women employed by the city of Fort Wayne their collective bargaining privileges, which give them a voice when it comes to rates of pay, safety issues, benefits, working conditions, etc.

You claim this is all about saving the taxpayer money and running these departments more efficiently, but when petitions signed by thousands of taxpayers were presented to council, they were brushed aside, and the two councilmen who down deep did not wholly support the ordinances were more than likely arm-twisted on the side by their party to support the ordinances.

These ordinances sponsored by Mr. Crawford and Mr. Jehl are not taxpayer issues, they are political issues. Better said, they are Republican issues, attacking organized labor and the middle class. So for all the voters (especially Republican voters) in these various districts, you might want to look hard and long at them when their name appears on the ballot the next time you go to the polls.


Cutting workers’ rights degrading

Newly arrived in Fort Wayne, I am appalled about the proposal by certain City Council “representatives” to rescind some Fort Wayne city unions’ collective bargaining rights. The notion that the budget proscribes the interests of any group of working people is a cruel canard.

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 provides most workers the right to bargain collectively. The fact that since the 1980s, many corporations, some legal entities and many powerful right-wing political office-holders have colluded to deprive workers of said legal rights says volumes about the sorry socioeconomic state of 21st century America.

Any attempt to deprive a workers’ group, however weak or indecisive, is degrading. The working class built this country, all of its infrastructure and the skyscrapers of the cities, from its sweat and brawn.

Unions have given us, after much struggle, the eight-hour day, overtime pay and the concept of the weekend, as well as dignity and respect in the workplace.

Consistently depriving individual workers of their right to collectively bargain with the boss for better pay, improved working conditions and benefits may mean trouble in the future. Is it time to storm the metaphorical Bastille?


Union-busting bills like right-to-work

The three ordinances presented by John Crawford and Russ Jehl are nothing but another attempt to bust unions.

All across the country, Republican governors are pushing right-to-work laws. They then take away bargaining rights and chip away at unions till they’re gone.

Indiana had a right-to-work law in the 1960s. Four years later, we decided this was bad for union and nonunion workers. We voted it out.

The police and firefighters put their lives on the line every time they clock in. City workers are out in all kinds of weather, keeping the electricity on, repairing streets, climbing into sewers, ensuring clean water, trimming trees, picking up yard waste, composting yard waste, plowing snow and taking care of the parks and trails, etc. This is hard work that we take for granted and wouldn’t want to do.

These city workers fought for fair and livable wages. Unions fought for health and safety rules that affect all workers in America

Indiana has added a lot of new jobs in the last few years. Thanks to right-to-work, they pay $8 to $11. That’s not a livable wage.

Before council votes, I hope they get the true facts and then vote no to these ordinances.

MARY JO RANLY Columbia City

Hey working voters: Replace councilmen

Dear working men and women (second-class citizens to the City Council majority): Now is our turn to be heard! We must get out to vote this November and the next one, etc. All working people must vote. It’s all we have to be heard.

I read several times a week in our newspapers how the corporate money must buy back the super-majority to control all laws from the House and Senate. Then the next article talks about the growing gap between the rich and poor.

Sounds just like what our City Council wants. There are only two things the working voters need to remember: vote, and if the candidate on the ballot has been in office before and there’s an “R” before or after their name, it stands for replace!

BILL McEVOY Fort Wayne

Councilmen rightly serving taxpayers

Having followed City Council’s proceedings both via TV coverage and Dan Stockman’s excellent reporting, I respectfully disagree with the JG’s editorial position. It is my opinion that the mayor would have been wise not to veto this bill and instead heed the counsel of the six City Council members who are trying to pave the way for the mayor and his administration to serve the city’s shareholders – i.e., taxpayers.

Regardless of how many awards and accolades are bestowed upon the city, the management task of dealing with this number of different union representatives in collective bargaining makes it improbable, if not impossible, to achieve optimum returns to the taxpayers.

Furthermore, it is my understanding that the bill will not require the mayor to cut wages or benefits. What it does is give him the ability to manage wages and benefits commensurate with performance as opposed to union doctrine.

Collective bargaining has declined precipitously in private industry over the past 30 years because management’s responsibility is to their shareholders. The mayor should recognize that his responsibility is to the taxpayers. It seems that these six City Council members recognize their responsibility and have the courage to enact what they believe is best for the taxpayers.

DON HOBBS Fort Wayne

Stance doesn’t suit all Republicans

Kudos to Mayor Henry for vetoing the vote to eliminate collective bargaining for city employees. I hope his veto is sustained, but I’m afraid it won’t last long since the six party-line, aka “tea party,” Republicans will probably all vote to override it.

I applaud the mayor, who said he was doing it for the employees, but I was really ticked off when one of those Republican councilmen said they were doing it for the taxpayers! I vehemently object to them speaking for me as a taxpayer without asking me first!

I am a lifelong Republican and a retiree, but I am willing to pay my taxes to retain the city’s collective bargaining agreement and help city employees hold onto their longtime benefits that I happen to believe are in their best interest.

I would challenge any one of the Republican councilmen to stand up and vote against party lines once in awhile. If not, I may just have to switch to being a Democrat – which may be the only shelter left for moderates who don’t feel comfortable with the current Republican ultra-conservative ideology.

KATHY DEW Fort Wayne

All city workers raise public safety

In regards to the very unpopular decision our city council has made about collective bargaining: If it is acceptable to retain it for the police and fire departments, then why not for the remainder of public workers? Where would we be without the fantastic work done by the street crews during the worst winter I can ever remember here in Fort Wayne? Also, the City Utilities workers ensuring that our water is safe. Why take away their bargaining rights when an important issue arises?

How long did the councilmen who voted for this meet to talk this through thoroughly? Did it occur to them that their decisions will affect many people negatively? It’s not always about money, it’s about working conditions, safety, etc. I would consider all these city employees public safety workers.

I taught for 33 years and was on the negotiations team, and also a building representative for years, and the process has to be one of cooperation and not dominance! This involves the livelihood of the city workers. This isn’t about huge raises, it’s about being able to discuss issues intelligently and cooperatively and not regard each other as enemies. I sincerely hope the council will not override the mayor’s actions. Do the Christian thing and think of someone other than yourselves! We need to retain the right for collective bargaining for all city employees.


Bargaining belongs in constitutions

Unions and the right to representation and collective bargaining need to be enshrined in our national and state constitutions. They are critical parts for the next stage of our societal development: the ascendancy of economic democracy.

The case for this evolution of capitalism is well understood by unionists but is now getting major economic evidence from a well documented book, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century” by Thomas Piketty, which basically says that wealth begets wealth at an increasing rate over time.

The problem is not wealth but the disproportionate accumulation of wealth, including workers’ savings being held by banks which don’t give those workers a voice in how the money is invested. Boom-bust economic cycles are created and result in mass unemployment and $700 billion government bailouts for those who caused the calamity.

We should thank State Sen. David Long for initiating a discussion on amending the U.S. Constitution and demand inclusiveness of working people in developing a constitutional amendment to balance economic interests. At the city level, we should thank Mayor Tom Henry for a veto in support of workers that marks a new beginning in the fight for a greater future for all of us.


Union battle part of national agenda

I did not elect City Councilman Russ Jehl to bring legislation to Fort Wayne based upon an agenda from a national coalition that knows nothing about my community. Why are the Republican councilmen advocating eliminating collective bargaining with city unions? Did they express a concern about this issue when they were running for office? Is this issue not a part of the agenda of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)? Now this group appears to be advancing its agenda into large cities as well.

I expect to have City Council representatives who know what my city needs – not doom and gloom-seers who want me to believe they perceive some unknown future crises that do not exist. I want representatives on my City Council who care about the needs of the citizens here and who want to work collaboratively and transparently with city employees to make sure the climate of our city and the services we provide residents are top-notch.