People appeal to councilmen to change votes

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Fort Wayne city council passed an ordinance that takes away collective bargaining for the six non-public safety city unions with a vote of seven to two. But, one of those “yes” votes – was really more of a procedural move so the measure can be reconsidered in two weeks.

Council voted six to three, along party lines, to pass it out of committee. Those against the ordinance say there needs to be more time for public input and research on if eliminating collective bargaining really will save taxpayers money.

“Everyone was saying it went along party lines, but it went party lines both ways,” Dr. John Crawford (R-At-Large), said. “That happens with these because a lot of is based on philosophy and how to run government.”

Then in the regular session, democratic councilman John Shoaff (At-Large), who voted against the ordinance in committee, changed his vote. That’s how the ordinance passed seven to two. Shoaff is also issuing a motion to reconsider the final vote. To legally be allowed to make that motion, he had to vote with the majority, so he had to vote yes.

“It’s very consistent with my original vote to allow introduction. It’s very consistent with what I think is the sensible approach to say alright, let’s really study this thing,” Shoaff said.

Joe Bonahoom’s been the attorney for city council for more than 18 years. He can only recall the motion to reconsider being used about five other times.

“If someone disagrees with the vote, they’re going to want to bring a motion to reconsider. The tricky part is they have to be on the side that prevails to enter the motion to reconsider” he said. “It puts that particular ordinance on hold, in this case, for two more weeks.”

Glynn Hines (D-6th District) said he hopes some councilmen will take the time to reconsider their votes.

“A couple of them are being appealed to and hopefully one or two will change their minds,” Hines said.

After the main meeting’s business was done, there’s an open public comment time at the city council meetings. Dozens of city workers came to the podium and many were pleading for councilmen Tom Didier (3st District) and Mitch Harper (4th District) to rethink their votes.

“It was gut wrenching last night. They’re appealing to me because that’s the kind of person that I am. I’m going to be open and listen. It doesn’t mean I’m changing my mind, but I am open and listening,” Didier said.

Didier said he sat down with every city union but one before Tuesday night’s vote.

“I took a lot of time over the last two and a half weeks to get a good grip on everything. You can’t look at this thing from such an emotional benchmark. You have to look at what’s best for the community as a whole,” he said. “I’ve tried to be open-minded in everything and take the right course of action.”

He added that many current laws provide protections for employees now that weren’t on the books 40 years ago when the collective bargaining ordinances were put into place.

“I understand the workers are taxpayers. I’m a taxpayer too. We have to look at it as a whole for the community. It’s a quiet majority [against collective bargaining] that I’ve seen over the last two and a half weeks,” Didier said.

In the two weeks before councilmen will see the ordinance before them again, Didier plans to walk neighborhoods.

“Get a feel for the constituents out there. Go door to door and talk to them and see if they feel I’ve done the right thing. I’m hearing it from both sides,” Didier said.

Harper said one of his main reasons for voting to repeal collective bargaining for the non-public safety unions was that there is automatic membership and union dues are automatically deducted from paychecks.

“The flexibility to organize government in new ways to serve people is hamstrung by having old-style collective bargaining,” Harper said.

Harper’s had many conversations with workers and union leaders in the last few weeks, he said. He hopes his “thoughtful” approach to the discussion is why people seem to be hoping he’ll change his vote.

“I’m sympathetic to people who might lose their voice and people who may be treated badly in the work place or be injured. I’m certainly sympathetic to how we can best organize government to meet new needs,” Harper said.

Shoaff said the bottom line is it’s not a black and white issue.

“Specific problems sometimes have specific solutions. So, certain specific complaints have been brought forward about unions and their practices. If they are legitimate, then we can deal with them without destroying the value of the union presence,” he said.

June 10 Shoaff will make his motion to reconsider the vote to pass the ordinance repealing collective bargaining.  That will likely be followed by another debate.

“The issues the main motion put before us are put before us by the motion to reconsider,” he said.

The council will vote whether or not to reconsider. If the motion passes with at least a simple majority of the members present, the council will then take a final re-vote on the ordinance itself. If the motion to reconsider does not pass, Tuesday night’s vote of seven to two will stand. The ordinance itself needs five votes to pass.

If the ordinance passes council, it will go to Mayor Tom Henry, who has said he’ll veto any collective bargaining ordinance that reaches his desk. If that happens, a council veto override vote is scheduled for June 24. It takes six votes to override a veto.

The ordinance that passed just repeals collective bargaining for non-public safety unions. The ordinance that would have taken it from police and fire unions too was tabled in committee.

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