‘Public information’ picnic on collective bargaining held at Freimann Square

An event billed as a picnic and public information session kicks off at Freimann Square on Saturday.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) –  City workers, and elected officials, know they’re running out of time to stop an ordinance that would repeal collective bargaining for non-public safety workers, but that hasn’t stopped them from trying to get council to change its mind.  Saturday, city workers and their unions held a picnic-like event at Freimann Square to get their voices out to the public.

The event first got attention last week, when an ad promoting the picnic ran in the June 14 Journal Gazette and presented a new reason for an ordinance that would have ended collective bargaining for non-public safety union employees.

The full page advertisement claimed there were rumors circulating of plans to privatize the city’s utilities. The following day, the city released a statement claiming there was “no interest in privatizing our award-winning water and sewer services.”

City workers had hoped for a few hundred people to come to the event.

“We thought the best thing was to do our best to get the public’s input and their concerns about what’s going on in the community,” said Llloyd Osborne, a representative for the APL-CIO Local 399.

Earlier in the week, NewsChannel 15 spoke with Mayor Tom Henry, who vetoed the ordinance on Friday June 13.  While the Mayor hasn’t given up hope, he understood things aren’t likely to change.

“It appears council has made up its mind and they’re going to respond in a certain way,” Henry said while out on his first neighborhood walk of the summer.  “I hope they don’t.  If they do overturn it, we’ll take appropriate actions afterwards.”

Democrat Councilman Geoff Paddock said he hadn’t seen an agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting, but did expect a vote to overturn the veto.

“It’s one thing to vote on this, but it’s another thing to override a veto,” said Paddock, who was one of three Democrat Councilmen against repealing collective bargaining.  “Overriding vetoes are rarely done in the history of Fort Wayne.  Even some state-elected officials and federally-elected officials are against overturning the Governor or President.”

Paddock, like Mayor Henry, has also not given up all hope, yet.

“People are still talking to me about this,” Paddock said.  “People are saying to me that they don’t understand why some council members want to rescind collective bargaining because it seems to work so well.  For 40 years, we have had a flawless system.  It’s not just from union members, but people who are observing us in the community.”

Paddock said city workers may end up losing this battle, but that didn’t mean things couldn’t change again.  At Saturday’s event, city workers setup a voter registration booth.

Erica Hoy, who works for the city’s parks, said she and her daughter both registered for the first time ever.  “They got to realize that we voted them in,” she said.  “We can vote them out.”

Republican Councilman Mitch Harper, who was one of the six councilmen to vote in favor of repealing collective bargaining, wasn’t discouraged about city employees trying to shift the outcome of next year’s election.

“You have to make a decision on merits, and not on consideration of what could happen in future elections,” said Harper, who added that you can’t always decide when certain ordinances are brought before council.  “If that single issue is so important, than that’s how you should vote.  But I hope you look at the overall record.”

Collective Bargaining Ordinance.

The bill went to the mayor’s desk after the June 11 City Council meeting. The council voted down a motion to reconsider the previous vote, thereby upholding the 7 to 2 vote on May 27.

John Shoaff (D, At-Large) voted with the majority on May 27 to remove collective bargaining rights, but only so he could invoke a parliamentary procedure to reconsider the vote. This meant the bill was essentially on hold until the council’s regular meeting on June 10. During that meeting, five council members voted to not reconsider the first vote and three voted to reconsider it. Councilman John Crawford was not at the meeting.

The council would need six votes to override the veto. A vote to do that could take place on June 24.

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