FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – During all of the collective bargaining debates last summer, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry was very vocal in support of the unions. But, in an interview with the Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters Political Action Committee a few weeks ago, councilman Tom Didier said the mayor told him to get rid of all nine unions during a closed-door meeting last summer.
Now, firefighter union president Jeremy Bush is calling for clarification.
“Tom [Didier] made reference to a statement made by the mayor that he was in favor of getting rid of all nine unions. In all this, I think the public deserves to know the truth,” Bush said.
Bush recorded the interviews with all the candidates to get everyone on record on various issues as the PAC decided who to endorse. NewsChannel 15 obtained a copy of the recording with Didier. The following is a transcribed excerpt of the collective bargaining discussion:
Panel Member: I think the bill came up including us in that.
Tom Didier: I wasn’t part of that.
Jeremy Bush: And, I know you weren’t, but understand that
Panel Member: The bill came up and it will come up again.
Tom Didier: Yeah, but you know what? It’s like, uh, when they would bring it before us, you know what. I didn’t have anything to do with this. I sat, he knows this, and as God as my witness, I was with Marty Bender and myself, I was in the mayor’s office, he wanted to get rid of all of you, so.
Panel member: Who’s that? Marty or the mayor?
Tom Didier: The mayor. I won’t publicly come out. I’ll tell you eight people or seven people. Eight people. Eight. I can count. I went to grade school, but um, no, he goes, I said I can’t do that. I would not do that. If I was the mayor, I wouldn’t do that.
Jeremy Bush: I mean, but understanding that he, the mayor told you in his office with those individuals in his office
Tom Didier (over Jeremy): Karl Bandemer
Jeremy Bush: to get rid of collective bargaining,
Tom Didier: All nine of you
Jeremy Bush: Why wouldn’t you guys communicate that to the public or us?
Didier: (over Jeremy) I, I communicated it.
Jeremy Bush: You told it to me, yes, but, but why
Panel Member: But I’m speaking as a citizen of Fort Wayne
Tom Didier: You know…
Panel Member: Especially when he says I’m going to veto it and this is why
Tom Dider: Well, I’m not trying to bad-mouth the mayor, I just did not agree with him.
“We were extremely stunned. That’s information that’s very unsettling given the mayor vetoed the ordinance,” Bush said.
Tuesday, Didier told NewsChannel 15 that he was in the mayor’s office to talk about Legacy Fund money last summer when collective bargaining came up.
“I look at it from the perspective of what I heard. I just took it verbatim,” Didier said. “I know what I perceived it as. I took it for what it was. I thought he wanted to take all nine unions.”
During the collective bargaining debate, Republicans were taking a lot of heat for getting rid of unions. If he thought the mayor wanted to do away with all nine unions, NewsChannel 15 also asked Didier why he didn’t go public with the conversation in the mayor’s office when it happened last summer.
“I didn’t want to get in that boxing match. I looked at it as, ‘Ok. This is the way you feel. This is the way I feel and I’m not throwing mud.’ I don’t work that way,” Didier said. “The mayor never came out and truthfully said what he was wanting to say, I guess you’ll find out in a few hours. You’ll find out what he means. I know what I perceived it as. I took it for what it was.”
When NewsChannel 15 talked with the mayor Tuesday afternoon, he said Didier misunderstood him. Henry said he was upset that council was targeting the non-public safety unions and that’s what sparked the comment.
“If you’re going to go after six of my unions, then have the guts to go after all nine of them. Don’t carve out public safety because you’re afraid there might be repercussions from public safety. That’s not a good reason. So, either you don’t like collective bargaining or collective bargaining doesn’t bother you,” Henry said. “The point is, if I really wanted to get rid of the unions, I wouldn’t have vetoed it. So, you can see how he took it out of context.”
The mayor did veto the repeal of collective bargaining and added that he always was and still is pro-union.