Allen County’s Republican Party chairman is offering suggestions for how the Fort Wayne City Council can take some of the sting out of its recent decision to end collective bargaining rights for 500 municipal workers.
In a letter sent Friday to the six Republicans on the nine-member council, GOP leader Steve Shine asks for the consideration of his proposals for “guaranteeing that Fort Wayne workers are treated fairly in the workplace.”
The local attorney proposes that the city establish an appeals procedure for employee claims of unjust discipline and dismissals; allow designated labor leaders to discuss union matters with members on city property during certain periods, such as employee lunch breaks; and honor workers’ requests that voluntary union dues be deducted from their pay and forwarded to their labor organizations.
Shine said in a telephone interview that the proposals, if enacted, would mean that collective bargaining proponents and opponents “can maybe meet in the middle as far as each having the best of both worlds. I think those proponents of the abolition of collective bargaining have the best of their world at this time, and to me it seems like we can accommodate major concerns of those who were proposing to keep it, which would be the fairness and due process for the city employees.”
The City Council voted 6-3 in May to outlaw collective bargaining for municipal workers other than police and firefighters. Democratic Mayor Tom Henry vetoed the ordinance in June, and the council overrode Henry’s veto later that month.
Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, co-author of the collective bargaining ban, said Sunday he had been out of town for the weekend and had not had time to do anything more than read Shine’s letter.
“I don’t have any comments on it as yet, because it’s going to take a little study,” Crawford said.
“It’s worthy of consideration,” he added.
City administration spokesman John Perlich said in an email that he could not comment on Shine’s letter until he has a chance to read and review it.
“Obviously, Republicans on Council passed legislation that appears to advance their ideological and philosophical desires rather than meeting the needs of residents and businesses,” Perlich said. “In contrast, Mayor Henry and city employees have been working together to win the future by making a meaningful difference and meeting the needs of residents and businesses with the best services possible.
“Mayor Henry has been and continues to be committed to protecting employees,” he said.
Shine called his suggestions “a work in progress” and “broad concepts” for providing “a safety valve for employees.”
“There has to be an independent grievance procedure to be certain that the employees’ due-process rights are honored and addressed,” he said.
Shine said in both the interview and the letter that he has talked about the proposals with Jeremy Bush, president of Fort Wayne Firefighters Union Local 124, and Lloyd Osborne, business representative for the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399, after Bush contacted Shine.
The two union officials, “while continuing to disagree with the removal of Collective Bargaining, agree that the suggestions in this letter would go a long way to dispelling the concerns of city employees that their continued employment with the city will not be subject to the whims of any one individual,” Shine wrote to the council’s GOP majority.
Shine stated in his letter that he believes the council’s actions to eliminate collective bargaining “can ultimately create an improved work environment that better serves the citizens of Fort Wayne.” He also wrote, “The Republican Party does not wish to prohibit union membership by the city employees.”