City council overrides mayor’s veto on collective bargaining

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – City council has voted to overturn Mayor Tom Henry’s veto on a bill aimed at stripping collective bargaining rights from non-safety public city workers. Council voted down party lines, 6-3, to overturn the veto.

The ordinance became law immediately, but there is still a great deal of uncertainty about what will happen next, especially in regards to figuring out benefits and salary for union workers. The six council members who voted to override the veto said removing collective bargaining will make it easier to manage the city and cut costs, but the biggest complaint was that the public didn’t have a say in the outcome, although many said they would make their voices heard come election time.

“I’m absolutely shocked,” said Lloyd Osborne, who represents Local 399, the International Union of Operating Engineers. “There’s no plan put in place for what happens tomorrow morning.”

Mayor Tom Henry was disappointed as well and issued the following statement:

Tonight’s vote by a majority of City Council members to override my veto of the ordinance to end collective bargaining for non-public safety union employees is disappointing and unnecessary.

At a time when we’re experiencing unprecedented momentum in the City of Fort Wayne by working together, six members of City Council decided to lead a divisive effort to hurt award-winning city employees and send a message to our residents and businesses that their philosophy on unions means more than investing in our future, attracting and retaining jobs, and being a leader in quality of life and neighborhood enhancements.

I want to thank Councilmen Hines, Paddock, and Shoaff for standing up for what is right. They are leaders and strong advocates for our community.

My leadership team has begun the process of identifying executive order options that we can utilize to continue to value and protect our employees who commit themselves each day to provide excellent, affordable, and life-saving services.

We will win the future and overcome the obstacles that have been placed in front of us. We are a city on the move. We are poised for growth, investment, and prosperity.

Councilman John Crawford, who introduced the collective bargaining ordinance, said he’s committed to making sure the new system works. Councilman Tom Smith even brought up the possibility of having work councils which he said is a popular practice in Europe.

There were some union contracts on Tuesday night’s agenda. If the bill didn’t get enough votes to override the mayor’s veto, council members would have voted on extending those contracts for another three years. Since the veto has been overridden, those contracts are no longer valid. However, council did vote to introduce an ordinance ratifying a contract for firefighters. Council members will talk about that at next week’s meeting, and one councilman said that members could also soon discuss a contract for police officers.

Passage of Collective Bargaining ordinance

The bill was introduced by councilmen John Crawford and Russ Jehl. When the vote was taken on the measure to end collective bargaining on May 27, it passed 7 to 2.

Councilmembers Marty Bender (R-At-large), John Crawford (R-At-large), Tom Smith (R-1st), Russ Jehl (R-2nd), Tom Didier (R-3rd), and Mitch Harper (R-4th) all voted in favor of the ordinance. Councilmembers Geoff Paddock (D-5th) and Glynn Hines (D-6th) voted against the measure.

John Shoaff (D, At-Large) voted with the majority 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, the council voted down the motion to reconsider the previous vote, thereby upholding the 7 to 2 vote on May 27.

The bill was then sent to the mayors desk, where it was vetoed on June 13.

 

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