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City Council instructs bargaining team to break law; then, in the worst way, the City tries to undo*

City Council instructs City’s bargaining team to break the law; then, in the worst possible way, the City tries to undo the damage.

Bargaining on Wednesday was unbelievable…

First, some necessary background. For those that don’t already know, for these negotiations, instead of using the Office of Employee Relations team, the City contracted with a Union-busting law firm and high-priced lawyers to negotiate against us – the City’s staff. The City is paying its chief negotiator $345 an hour and has agreed to give this law firm up to $424,500 to fight against City workers. Imagine if the City valued its workforce the same way it valued the people they hire to negotiate against our interests. What a community that would be.

Okay, are you sufficiently irritated yet? Good, us too. Now back to Wednesday.

The City informed us first thing on Wednesday morning that “at the direction of City Council, they would not make any further proposals on any topic – economic or non-economic – until the Union reduced our wage proposal and agreed to ask for less.” Basically, they tried to strong-arm the Union using an illegal bargaining tactic. The law requires employers and Unions to bargain in good faith, and it provides protections against this sort of bullying behavior from bosses – otherwise known as an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP). It’s hard to believe that the City’s high-priced law firm didn’t warn the City Council that the maneuver they directed their team to take was illegal. Or maybe they did, but the warning was ignored. We’ll never know.

After the strong-arm attempt, the Union reminded the City that, except for the Union’s Chief Negotiator, the Union’s bargaining team is made up of city workers volunteering their time and who spend their nights and weekends preparing for bargaining. We reminded them that we are doing our level best to represent the interests of thousands of City workers and to do whatever it takes to fill 900 vacancies and get our services back to a level that our residents deserve.

Compared with the City’s team, who are all paid to perform these functions, along with the anti-union law firm, they come in unwilling to negotiate an agreement in good faith. They come in with zero ideas about improving public services, and it feels very much like they’re playing a game and not taking anything seriously.

We let the City’s team know that we felt that what they were doing was illegal and that the Union would file a ULP charge in court if they didn’t bargain in good faith. We informed the City bargaining team that the Union would remain in the room for the remainder of the day, and if the City had a change of heart and didn’t want to run afoul of the law, they should come back prepared to bargain.

Thirty minutes later, the phone rang… The City wanted to come back to the bargaining table and discuss some topics so the Union wouldn’t be able to file the unfair labor practice against them. Then, the City proposed one of the most ridiculous offers we’ve ever seen… Come to one of the Union’s lunch meetings next week and hear about other updates we can’t put in print! We’ll be giving away big raffle prizes, goodies, food, and more information about the next steps.


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