Municipal Unions – A Snapshot of the Future

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Ft. Wayne, IN isn’t Detroit but it is a heartland city and it is in a fight with their local unions so they don’t become Detroit. The outcome in Ft. Wayne will be interesting, but it’s not the last battle to be fought, it may even just rise to the level of a skirmish. The important thing is that it is being fought.

It’s no secret, if you’re a Curmudgeon reader, that we have no use for public employee unions. They are, with their wholly owned Democratic officials, bankrupting the nation. We find this skirmish in Ft. Wayne to be a very good thing because the city council, well, the Republicans on the city council, are drawing a line in the sand with the city unions.

There are three proposals before the council all sponsored by Republican councilmen, and Republicans have a majority on the council. The Mayor is a Democrat.

One ordinance introduced by John Craword, R-at large, and Russ Jehl, R-2nd, would eliminate bargaining for about 500 employees other than public safety workers, and another would create a single bargaining unit to represent workers now represented by several bargaining units. The third and most controversial proposal, introduced by Crawford alone, would eliminate bargaining for about 800 police officers and firefighters. Regardless of the outcome, Crawford and Jehl have done the city a favor by pointing out the inefficiencies and conflicts of interest inherent in public-sector unions – problems that transcend pay.

At Curmudgeon Central we favor the third option.

We’ve seen public employee unions taking it on the chin across the nation, from Wisconsin to San Diego and San Jose. One problem we’ve noted with every one of those victories for taxpayers is that police and fire fighters are left alone and their unions remain in-place. That has to stop.

Cops and firefighters contracts are simply overblown. They typically have the ability to retire – and work elsewhere – in their late 40s or early 50s. Combined with the typical calculation for retirement pay, a percentage of your three highest years, they rack up tons of overtime hours in their last few years and end up making more in retirement than they made for most of their career.

And then there’s healthcare cost.

Ft. Wayne points out the added stupidity of union work rules that handicap management in outrageous ways and bend over taxpayers.

Are city workers overpaid when compared to their non-union counterparts in Allen County government? Crawford thinks so, although that is a topic of legitimate debate. But when he and Jehl criticize work rules that prevent employees in one union from assisting similar trained workers in another, or that resulted in a grievance being filed against a Botanical Gardens supervisor for picking a weed, the point they make is obvious and irrefutable: Such nonsense must end.

Crawford is on equally sound footing when he points out how Fort Wayne taxpayers actually pay union bosses about $200,000 per year to seek more and more benefits from those very taxpayers, and that city attorneys and managers spend about $133,000 of their time per year dealing with union issues.


It’s past time for public employee unions to be abolished. We’re hoping that Ft. Wayne takes a major leap in that direction, but regardless how this skirmish ends, the battle is engaged across the nation and we believe that time is on our side.

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