Council declares support for union workers

Resolution is response to new state law

Faced with tough new restrictions on collective bargaining by many public employees, the Fort Dodge City Council on Monday declared its support for unionized workers and set up a method to work with them on topics that state law now bars from contract talks.

“We don’t always agree with everything that goes on in the capital city,” Councilman Terry Moehnke said.

Moehnke said the City Council has had a “very good working relationship” with the three unions that represent public employees.

Those unions are International Association of Firefighters Local 622; Public Professional and Maintenance Employees Local 2003, which represents police officers; and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2932, which represents public works, parks and recreation and library employees.

“We support them,” Moehnke said. “We want to continue that relationship with as few bumps as possible.”

At the urging of Mayor Matt Bemrich, who proposed the measure, the council unanimously approved a resolution of support for city employees and collective bargaining units.

The resolution states, in part:

“Whereas, the City Council of Fort Dodge, Iowa, goes on record as supporting our employees and collective bargaining units which represent our employees, and

“Whereas, the City Council of the City of Fort Dodge, Iowa, recognizes that the recently approved legislation makes dramatic changes to collective bargaining for public service employees in the State of Iowa, and

“Whereas, the City Council of the City of Fort Dodge, Iowa, recognizes that these changes may hurt employee morale, cause division among our employees and lead to the loss of dedicated and conscientious public servants, and

“Whereas, the City Council of the City of Fort Dodge, Iowa, values our employees and strongly believes that we all benefit when employees have a voice in the workplace,

“Now, therefore be it resolved by the City Council of the City of Fort Dodge, Iowa, that the City of Fort Dodge, Iowa, will treat employees in a manner which ensures employees must have a seat at the table when discussing benefits and work place conditions, employ fair and just compensation practices and develop fair and just internal procedures for the handling of grievances.”

The resolution is a response to a law signed by Gov. Terry Branstad on Feb. 17 which prohibits most public employee unions from negotiating for anything other than base wages.

Bemrich said the city already has groups of union representatives and management personnel that meet regularly to address various issues.

He said Monday’s resolution essentially directs city management personnel to use those groups to develop policies to address items which can no longer legally be addressed during contract negotiations. He cited employee seniority rules as as example of the items to be addressed through the new policies.

The mayor said the ideas and concerns of the unionized workers will be heard as the management and labor groups work on the policies.

Bemrich said that process will not violate state law.

“We can have any policy with our employees that we want as long as it’s in the confines of state law,” he said.

The council received a round of applause from the audience, which included many city employees, after approving the resolution.

“I really appreciate all your backing,” Steve Doyle, the president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 2932, told the council after the vote.

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