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Politics, policy drive GOP chairman's bargaining letter to council members

City already doing some of what Steve Shine suggests, spokesman says

Monday, July 28, 2014 - 8:29 am

Expressing concern about the political impact of their recent collective bargaining votes, Allen County Republican Party Chairman Steve Shine has suggested City Council's GOP majority take steps to safeguard some of the interests of city employees previously protected by unions.

In a letter to council's six Republican members – all of whom were needed to override Mayor Tom Henry's veto of bills eliminating collective bargaining for non-public safety workers and removing mandatory union membership for police and fire workers – Shine suggests establishment of an independent grievance board that would protect workers' due process “with the same effectiveness of collective bargaining without particular aspects that precipitated its removal.”

Although Shine expressed respect for the leadership shown by council Republicans, saying the changes will promote workers efficiency and creativity, he noted that “some negative attention has been placed on your recent actions by those who have concern about change. Like other approaches to government that break from routine . . . your efforts may first be subjected to a 'push back.' ”

“The Republican Party does not wish to prohibit union membership by city employees,” Shine added. “But . . . it is no longer the only means of protecting the rights and well-being of city employees.”

Shine suggests creation of an appeals procedure that would allow employees and labor organizations to challenge allegedly unjust discipline and termination through binding arbitration. He also states labor leaders could have access to employees on city property during certain times and that the city could deduct voluntary union dues from their paychecks, as it did before council's changes.

The grievance board, he added, would ensure that “no supervisor having a 'bad day' could fire a hard-working, rule-abiding city worker on a mere whim.”

Doing these things, he said, would remove the perception that council had “gutted the work place but rather, good employees would be rewarded and inappropriate actions would be dealt with appropriately.”

Some labor leaders have expressed support for his proposals, Shine said.

But John Perlich, spokesman for Henry, said many of Shine's ideas are similar to administration policies already in place "due to the commitment of Mayor Henry's administration to ensure that employees are protected following the actions of council . . . Obviously, Republicans on council passed legislation that appears to advance their ideological and philosophical desires rather than meeting the needs of residents and businesses."

Shine acknowledged that some will view his letter as political, but said, "obviously, the world is political. To build rather than destroy, you need to work with people of differing views. But (what council did) creates a new paradigm that allows elected officials to lead by establishing salaries, job descriptions, work rules and other things (once handled through collective bargaining). "What's needed is a felling of security (among employees) to make it work."

Councilman John Crawford, R-at large, co-sponsor of the bill that eliminated bargaining, said he would have to study Shine's proposals before deciding whether to support them. "It's very complicated and will require a lot of consideration. But politics is always secondary with me when I'm trying to do something in the best interest of the community," he said. Crawford has formed an exploratory committee to raise funds for a possible re-election bid next year.