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Henry explains veto of 'right-to-work' bill

Council is likely to override; Harper responds

Friday, July 18, 2014 - 1:14 pm

For the second time in as many months, Mayor Tom Henry Friday was expected to veto a City Council attempt to curb collective bargaining for municipal employees.

Henry, who in June vetoed an ordinance eliminating bargaining for non-public safety employees, was expected to veto the bill passed by council July 8 stating that membership in a union cannot be a requirement for employment by the city. Because council had already overridden Henry'?s veto of the bargaining bill, council'?s later ordinance affected only the police and fire departments.

"Once again, City Council has presented an ordinance that I had to veto because of the disrespect it shows the great employees of our city -- this time, the public safety officers," Henry said Friday.

"The last time I vetoed an ordinance, the voices of our non-public safety employees obviously fell on deaf ears. I openly worked with the firefighters' union prior to the recent passage of their contract to eliminate the membership requirement because that's what they requested. Had the police unions asked for this, I would have respected their wishes and could have signed a letter of agreement with them as well.

"To my knowledge, no council member ever talked with the police unions . . . No warning was given. I truly believe that is bad governing. This ordinance alienates those who put their lives on the line to keep all of us safe," Henry stated.

The votes of six of council's nine members are needed to override a mayoral veto, and six members supported the "right to work" bill passed last week, which was introduced by Mitch Harper, R-4th.

Without the requirement to join a union, Harper said at the time, employment will be based solely on the quality of work and professionalism.

The bill passed by council last week is similar to right to work legislation enacted by the Indiana General Assembly two years ago, a bill that does not cover public-safety employees.

John Crawford, R-at large, who co-sponsored council's first bargaining bill, aid he had hoped Henry would not veto the right to work ordinance because Jeremy Bush, President of the Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters union, had not expressed opposition to the bill, confident firefighters would pay union dues even if not compelled to do so.

"But I guess the Patrolmen?s Benevolent Association (which represents rank-and-file police officers) was upset," Crawford said.

PBA President Sofia Rosales-Scatena said Friday no one from council approached her before introducing the right to work bill. If they had, she said, they would have learned that, unlike the firefighters union, she believes mandatory union membership is necessary.

"This is not about tax dollars," she said. But we assure due process for our members, and attorneys can cost $200 an hour. If you're young and don't have a lot of possessions, you may think about saving as much money as you can (by not paying dues)."

Following Henry's veto, Harper released a statement saying he regrets " that the mayor has chosen to veto the bill which would have protected Fort Wayne employees and supported them in their choices. The right to work, the right to be employed without joining a union, is enjoyed by all Hoosiers except those in the public sector. To veto this basic Hoosier right is disappointing.

"The veto sends a message on economic development that is in conflict with Indiana's pro-growth, pro-employment agenda . . . Confident labor organizations do not require agency shop provisions and compulsory dues.

Council could consider an override as soon as next week, Crawford said.