Portage mayor vetoes labor bargaining ordinance
By John Robbins Post-Tribune correspondent June 21, 2012 1:18PM
Updated: June 21, 2012 5:37PM
Portage Mayor James Snyder vetoed an ordinance recently passed by the Portage City Council requiring at least one council member be present at all bargaining sessions between the city and employee labor unions.
Snyder gave two reasons for his veto. “No city of Portage ordinance should ever be created or derived to simply ‘make a statement to the mayor,’ ” and “Elected officials have no place inside union bargaining meetings.”
Snyder believes that elected officials in bargaining sessions are at a disadvantage because “they can be threatened with loss of political support.” And, he said, “These actions are what lead to corruption and bad deals on behalf of the residents.”
“I want the council to be very involved in these negotiations,” said Snyder. “As a result, the Portage Common Council’s selected representatives and the mayor will be briefed together.”
A.J. Monroe, director of the Public Works Department, has been designated as lead negotiator by Snyder.
Councilman Matt Scheuer wants elected officials in the bargaining sessions precisely because they are answerable to the electorate. For that reason Scheuer questions having unelected personnel in charge of negotiations.
“As politicians it’s our job to find the balance between the interests of the employees and the interests of the city,” he said.
Council president Sue Lynch also firmly believes council members need to be present at negotiating sessions. She sat in on a session and reported, “It was a great learning experience. I heard first-hand employee concerns.”
Lynch also questions the wisdom of having nonelected officials in charge of negotiations.
“A.J. is a nice person but he doesn’t have any more qualifications to be a negotiator than I do,” she said.
Neither Lynch nor Scheuer think that being kept apprised of negotiations is sufficient, either.
“It’s one thing to be told about something versus hearing it first-hand,” Scheuer said.
Lynch and Scheuer both expect the veto to be overridden since it originally passed by a 5-to-2 vote.
“I’m hoping his veto is overridden. This is an effort to let the people know that this is a process that we were elected to be a part of,” Lynch said.
“I will be working to override the veto,” Scheuer said. “The mayor wants to see some trust from the council. We need to see some trust from him.”