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Ordinance would end taxpayer-funded union work by city employees

'Kick in the pants,' says police union president

Monday, July 7, 2014 - 8:52 am

Taxpayers shouldn't pay city employees to perform union duties, Marty Bender figures.

So the Republican at-large City Council member, who is also a deputy Fort Wayne police chief, on Tuesday will introduce an ordinance that would prohibit that longstanding practice, effective Aug. 1.

Bender, along with council's other five Republican members, recently ended collective bargaining for the six unions representing non-public safety employees. But council exempted the three unions that represent public-safety workers: Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters Local 124; the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, which represents rank-and-file police officers; and the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents some higher-level officers.

Bender's ordinance would affect Firefighters President Jeremy Bush and PBA President Sofia Rosales-Scatena, both of whom receive tax-funded salaries for serving as full-time union leaders. During the debate over ending collective bargaining, Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, estimated that union positions cost taxpayers about $200,000 per year.

The city should not pay that expense, Bender's ordinance states, because state-imposed caps on property taxes have reduced its revenues by $53 million over the past several years. Although the ordinance is not intended to “eliminate any union positions or impede, infringe upon or impair union business,” it contends that the work of union leaders should be funded by union members.

The ordinance would prevent the city from entering into any agreement, including collective bargaining, which would require compensation for any employee “serving as a union officer, steward, agent, committee member or any other union-related position, or for performing union-related activities.”

Employees could do union work on their paid time off, however.

Rosales-Scatena called the ordinance “a kick in the pants. It's a little disappointing, and for Marty to file it is an even bigger hit, since he benefits from what the (FOP) negotiates,” she said. Bender has said he is not and has never been a union member.

Rosales-Scatena and Bush have said it is often difficult to separate their union duties from those done in the line of duty.

“Everything I do benefits the department or public safety. Is it union work when I speak to Hispanic groups about policing? I'm not sure how they will determine

(union vs. departmental work).”

If necessary, she said, PBA may be able to increase dues paid by its 375 members to cover costs now paid by taxpayers. “Our dues are minimal now, about $40 a month,” she said.

A three-year contract with the firefighters' union, calling for a 2 percent annual salary increase, was withdrawn from consideration by council last week and is currently awaiting action.