Labor union takes dispute with city to the streets


Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2429 hold an informational picket, along with other union supporters, at the intersection of West Court Street and South West Avenue Monday, July 13. The union members are not happy with Sidney City Council after it rejected a fact-finder’s report calling for a 2 percent raise as part of a new contract the union and city have been negotiating.

SIDNEY — While business was fairly routine at a Sidney City Council meeting Monday night, the situation outside City Hall was not. About 60 people — some of them city workers and others their supporters — conducted an informational picket about the labor union’s dispute with the city over a new contract.

Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2429 stationed themselves on the north and south sides of city government property along Poplar and Court streets. The event took place from 6 to 7 p.m., with the Poplar Street group moving to join their colleagues on Court Street for most of the hour.

Participants held signs bearing messages such as, “Treat us fair”; “Days since last raise: 1,655”; and “I can’t believe council rejected the fact-finders report!”

Council did not discuss the informational picket or the labor contract during its open session, although “preparing for negotiations or bargaining sessions with public employees” was among the items scheduled for an executive session at the end of the meeting.

Marcia Knox, bargaining representative for the local union, announced Sunday that the informational picket was planned, and she was at the event Monday evening. “All they want is fair treatment,” she said.

Members of Local 2429, which represents the city’s full-time service, maintenance and clerical departments, have not had a pay increase in 3 1/2 years, Knox said. She said Monday night’s event was meant to “bring some awareness” to the public about the continuing labor dispute.

Knox said “morale is so bad” among the workers, “who feel they are being picked on.”

In comments made to the Sidney Daily News Sunday, Knox said other unions for city employees have had between a 1 to 3 percent increase over the life of their contracts. She said the proposed new contract called for a 1 percent increase when the contract is ratified for the first year; the increase would start when the contract is ratified. The city wouldn’t pay for the increase retroactive to the beginning of the year, she said.

The fact-finder’s report called for a 2 percent increase for the union employees the first year of the contract. City Council rejected the fact-finding report in May. At that time, Mayor Mike Barhorst said the biggest disagreement involved wages for the employees.

The city and union have been negotiating for a new contract since Oct. 14, 2014. The union members have voted on a contract, but it was rejected earlier in the year.

After the unsuccessful negotiations, Dennis M. Byrne was called in to gather a fact-finding report. Prior to the April 22 hearing, Byrne attempted to mediate a settlement but was unsuccessful. Twenty issues were addressed at the hearing at which both parties explained their positions on the issues and discussed their areas of disagreement.

Local 2429 members’ most recent action on a proposed contract occurred July 9 when they “overwhelming” voted down “the city’s last best offer,” Knox said. She said the city could implement the last best offer, which would be upsetting to Local 2429 members.

Forty-six employees are eligible to become members of the union, Knox said.

The contract the parties are negotiating covers the period Jan. 1, 2015, through Dec. 31, 2017.

The writer may be contacted at 937-538-4823 and on Twitter @MikeSeffrinSDN.