Senior city officials and pro-union City Hall workers both have praise for a new City Council resolution that will regulate relations between them.
The Employer-Employee Relations Resolution, passed unanimously last week, settled several major issues that had been sore points between the two sides since January, when the resolution surfaced but was tabled.
For the past month, the city's employees have been moving toward crucial votes on whether to join the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union. At least three of four employee bargaining units are expected to vote on the union proposal by mid-July.
When the resolution was introduced in January, it included language that would have made the city manager the final arbiter when disputes between the city and a union reached an impasse.
But the resolution approved last week would allow both sides to take their case either to an independent arbitrator or to a less formal three-person panel, which would include the city manager, a union representative and an independent party.
"The victory for the employees is that we now have binding arbitration as a part of the resolution," said Deborah Potter, the city's economic development manager and a member of the union steering committee.
City Manager Paul Brotzman said the three-person panel could help avoid costly arbitration. "I think it's a good and fair way to resolve disputes without going through the expense and pressure of arbitration," he said.
The resolution, which is mandatory under state law, sets in place the rules that govern a city's collective bargaining procedure.
According to Potter, the resolution contained several other important compromises. In the early version, city officials had insisted that all union elections and verification procedures be administered by the city administration; in the resolution passed last week, the state Conciliation Board will be the overseer. And city officials also agreed to consider how employees will be affected whenever they hire outside workers for city duties.
The council also set up four employee bargaining units. A general employees unit will include about 30 workers. Eight to 10 workers will be classified as mid-management. Three workers, all in the financial section, are covered under the "confidential" classification. And five City Council aides will make up the fourth unit.
The four units are expected to schedule separate elections within the next month to determine whether they will join AFSCME, Potter said.