FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A full page advertisement in Sunday’s Journal Gazette doesn’t just give notice for a fundraiser picnic next Saturday, it suggests a new motive for why city council could be repealing collective bargaining.
“This has just surfaced. Our goal is to make sure the community know that things like this are happening. It’s important to me, not just as a union representative, but it’s important to me as a lifetime citizen of this community. I’ve worked in and lived in this community for more than 30 years,” Lloyd Osborne, agent for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399, said.
Osborne said in the last week or so there have been a lot of “rumblings” about plans to privatize or restructure city utilities after meetings with Kumar Menon, head of city utilities, and other deputy directors.
“City councilmen told us, ‘Yes. Something big is happening.’ We asked specific questions to council members about restructuring or privatizing city utilities and a few said there have been conversations about that,” Osborne said. “I hope that getting rid of collective bargaining is not their first step of taking away the public’s right to their own city utilities.”
The newspaper ad said eliminating union contracts would make changing city utilities easier.
“The contracts have successor language. If they ever sell utilities or privatize it in any way, the contracts go with it to keep the security of the workers in tact. If they do away with unions and contracts, they have free reign to do whatever they want with utilities at any given time and they don’t have to worry about collective bargaining being in place when making the sale or restructuring of the utilities,” Osborne explained.
Osborne said restructuring city utilities in Indianapolis led to bonuses being given for false information, work reductions and services not being provided as promised.
“It would have been good to hear from them because their views on collective bargaining and their views on city unions, they’ve given indication, are at some variance with the public position of the administration,” Harper said Wednesday.
Harper would not elaborate further. NewsChannel 15′s request for an interview with Helton on Wednesday was denied.
NewsChannel 15 also left a message with the spokesman for the mayor’s office on Sunday. That request for comment hasn’t been returned yet.
The picnic at Freimann Square in downtown Fort Wayne is 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 21. It will raise money for the Leukemia Foundation, but Osborne said it will also act as the public hearing the unions never got.
“We’ve asked for a hearing. [City council] refused. We’re going to do our best to try to give the citizens a hearing or at least the information of what’s going on,” he said. “We have continued to try to reach out to city council. We have spoken to each and every one of them several times and asked to do studies and to take a longer look at this. We’ve asked them to sit down with us and find ways to restructure this and we have run up against a brick wall. They refuse to do anything except eliminate collective bargaining. They are not open to any suggestions or any form of conversation.”
Mayor Henry vetoed the ordinance repealing collective bargaining for the six non-public safety city unions on Friday. The council will take a vote to override the veto on June 24. Six votes are needed to override a veto.
“We’re very hopeful that before that veto vote comes down somebody will come to their senses and listen to what we have to say and understand that this is a bigger issue than getting rid of collective bargaining,” Osborne said.