FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - The fight against ordinances that would end collective bargaining for some Fort Wayne city employees is spreading to unions in the private sector. Brent Eastom is listed as the creator of a petition on MoveOn.org. Eastom is the Union President of IUE-CWA Local 901 which represents workers with BAE Systems and General Electric.
The petition urges Fort Wayne City Council members to oppose the ordinances that would end collective bargaining for city workers.
The petition claims:
The representatives of our Fort Wayne City Council are not listening to the concerns of the local taxpayers and are trying to rush through passing an ordinance to strip public union workers of collective bargaining.
“When you reduce wages, when you reduce benefits, people look for better jobs and better opportunities. When we talk about Fort Wayne booming, this is the wrong direction that we want to go,” said Eastom.
Eastom said the petition isn’t just meant to help protect one specific union.
It’s not just about public unions. It’s about private unions. It’s about families, and it’s about all of these people that if you reduce their living wage in Fort Wayne, it’s just a downhill tumble from there. One battle scar for this union is a battle scar for us because in solidarity, we’re all in this together.” said Eastom.
Eastom thinks the issue is becoming much more about party preference and not about the people actually effected.
“What’s very frustrating is it feels like it’s more republican versus democrat and we’re just voting on party lines versus a principal of listening to the voters,” said Eastom.
Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry is also urging caution. He issued a statement Friday calling for “a collaborative study commission on collective bargaining.” The mayor goes on to call the possible repeal of collective bargaining “an unnecessary, divisive issue.” He also invited city council, as well as people from the public and private sectors to join in the study.
Eastom hopes his petition furthers the mayor’s statement and opens the door for discussion.
“It’s raising awareness, opening up the door for a dialogue, basically to mimic exactly what Mayor Henry’s statement said. Let’s talk basically the numbers, let’s see what’s going on within the community, within the state, and within the country. Fort Wayne is one of the top 100 largest cities in the country. So, let’s look at other cities and what they’re paying their city union workers. Let’s look at the cost of living, let’s look at the data versus no, unions cost us way too much. Let’s stop and really think about what is actually happening,” said Eastom.
While the councilmen in favor of repealing collective bargaining argue that it would save taxpayers money, Eastom said eliminating it would cause far greater issues.
“These guys who work for the city unions, police, firefighters, just the city municipal unions, are all highly skilled and efficient.These guys go through training and experience and if you reduce and remove collective bargaining for wages and benefits, you hate to say it, but you get what you pay for- the quality, the efficiency, and the skill set of what you’re getting- the safety of the community could basically spiral down hill,” said Eastom.
Eastom wants the public to know the petition isn’t meant to harm the city, but rather to protect the unions and their basic rights.
“We’re not trying to make the city go broke. We’re just trying to have a living wage so we don’t have to work two jobs just to support our families. Now, you have six representatives that could ultimately eliminate that in one fair swoop. In three separate meetings, in three days, they could say no more, no more negotiating over benefits, no more negotiating over wages, and now there’s no talk about it,” said Eastom.
NewsChannel 15 contacted Councilman John Crawford, the main supporter and author of the ordinances that would repeal collective bargaining, to see if he knew of any petition that had been set up in favor of the ordinances. Crawford said he has not created any petitions, but he was aware of the one on MoveOn.org.