FORT WAYNE – Mayor Tom Henry issued a rare veto Friday, making good on his promise to strike down an ordinance ending collective bargaining rights for city employees who are not police or firefighters.
Passionately calling the ordinance divisive and a step backward for the community, Henry signed the veto in front of the media, city department heads and about a dozen union representatives, who burst into applause when he finished.
The Fort Wayne City Council voted along party lines May 27 to approve the ordinance, but a parliamentary move by Democrats required a second vote Tuesday, which upheld the decision. The council’s six Republicans supported the ordinance; it takes six votes to override a veto. That vote will come June 24.
We will overcome this unnecessary challenge that is before us, Henry said. We win the future by making smart choices, not by jeopardizing the formula for success and demoralizing our city team.
But 2nd District Republican City Councilman Russ Jehl, who co-authored the ordinance, dismissed the veto.
I stand with the taxpayers over the unions, and the mayor stands with the unions over the taxpayers, Jehl said.
The city has about 1,800 employees. The ordinance ends collective bargaining for about 500 of them. There are about 750 employees in the city’s three police and fire unions who are unaffected by the change.
Union backers say the fact that police and firefighters were not included shows the hollowness of the argument against collective bargaining.
First, they said we had to do this because it was a matter of dollars and cents, Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th, said. Then, when they didn’t include police and fire – the largest group of employees and the biggest part of the budget – we got to see the truth, which is a difference in philosophy. And their philosophy is that department heads and city employees are not doing a good job.
Henry said one of the criticisms leveled by opponents was that contracts with the unions have not been signed and brought down to the City Council for approval. But he said the contracts were held back because Republicans told them not to bother, since they were going to end collective bargaining.
Now, Henry said, he plans to send every contract to the Council to force members to be on the record voting against ratified contracts.
While union backers only need to get one Republican to vote against overriding the veto, they concede they’re fighting an uphill battle.
I don’t think the chances are good, I’m sorry to say, said John Shoaff, D-at large. I do know some Republicans are conscientiously listening, but .
Henry said he does not take vetoes lightly and hopes City Council members will think twice about overriding it.
This is only the second time in seven years I’ve had to do this – that tells you how important this issue is, he said. What the City Council did was wrong.