Union workers frustrated over council vote

In this photo from May 27, residents and city workers packed council chambers to weigh in on ordinances to eliminate collective bargaining for some city employees.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The outcome of Tuesday night’s City council vote to repeal collective bargaining for non-public safety union workers brought out strong emotions in the crowd. People felt that their voices weren’t being heard.

By a vote of 7 – 2, council members approved the bill repealing collective bargaining for non-public safety unions. Measures to combine non-public safety unions and repeal collective bargaining rights for police and fire unions were both tabled in committee for later consideration. However, many people were upset that council members separated non-safety unions from public-safety unions.

“They are separating us out and making us second class citizens and police and fire first class citizens,” Ernie Meyer, a City Sewer Department worker said.

Public safety union officials said they stand in solidarity with the other unions but said police and firefighter unions are bit different because they have higher liabilities, and their unions are governed by state legislation which would cause more problems if the city tried to create its own ordinances.

“Really make it harder on the city to do things because they’d have to petition and lobby the state legislature,” said the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, Sophia Rosales-Scatena.

Many people who crowded the Citizens Square basement Tuesday evening were also upset that the hundreds of community signatures against the repeal weren’t looked at more closely, especially after Mayor Tom Henry proposed a commission to look deeper into collective bargaining.

“I’m ashamed that somebody would be so short-sighted to not put a committee or panel together before they vote on it,” said Jeremy Bush, the president of the Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters.

Many union representatives have mixed feelings about a vote to reconsider the repeal on June 10th, but some are remaining optimistic.

“We hope that one of those party line people could reconsider and say I can vote with a conscience instead of down party lines,” Stan Schaefer, who works with the city’s water maintenance service, said.

Even though the vote on public-safety unions was tabled Tuesday, some public safety union officials said they are skeptical for the June 10th meeting after seeing the results for non-public safety unions. Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry has already said he plans to veto any of the three bills should they pass.

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