Lansing city council member
Jody Washington responded to my article
Can we afford another union
supporter on City Council? with an email that
said simply "Yes we can." Then she followed up with a
longer email. She gave me permission to pass it along:
All kidding aside, I do want to let you
know that I really do appreciate your e-mails and find
them to be quite informative. In response to this
particular report, I just want to say a few things.
I am proud of my labor endorsements. I
work hard every day for the everyday person. Having the
endorsement does not mean I am told how to vote by
anyone on labor. In fact, because of some of my votes,
I may not get all the labor endorsements I received the
first time. I do come from a long line of blue collar
workers, and I am not ashamed of that.
As far as labor contracts with the city
are concerned, no one on council has ever negotiated any
of the contracts. Negotiating with the unions is the
administration’s job. I have no say whatsoever in what
is agreed upon with the workers. All I have ever said
is, negotiate what you can live with. I don’t think it
is wise to negotiate a contract and come back in a short
time and ask for concessions.
For the two budget cycles I have been
through, council has had no say in the budget
whatsoever. We were handed a budget. Some of the
council members did their due diligence and went through
the budgets and made amendments. The mayor vetoed all
amendments both years (except one where we took money
out of the council budget for sidewalks). Three council
members upheld his veto both years. Therefore, if you
are unhappy with the way the budget and finances are
being handled, you are unhappy with the mayor and the
three council members.
I understand the frustration of the
people, as I too am frustrated. I just would like your
frustrations placed in the proper direction. The
contracts, the retirement, the finances—these are all
done by the executive branch of the City of Lansing, not
the legislative branch. We have not had the number of
council members to turn over anything the mayor has
handed to us.
Lansing City Council – 1st Ward
I don't care much for
collective bargaining, whether it is in private industry or
the public sector, but where it does the most damage is the
public sector. In her third paragraph, Jody says:
far as labor contracts with the city are concerned, no
one on council has ever negotiated any of the contracts.
Negotiating with the unions is the administration’s job.
The fact that council
members are not involved in the collective bargaining
process is an issue I
addressed in November of last year. City employee
compensation takes more of the city budget than any other
item, yet all is negotiated behind closed doors, without the
involvement of the city council and out of the public's
view. Negotiated contracts often override city ordinances.
The National Labor Relations
Act does not apply to the public sector. Michigan's public
schools and local governments have been forced to engage in
collective bargaining since 1965, with passage of the
Public Employment Relations Act. The law spoils the
democratic process for a critical part of local government
and is the main cause of budget stress for local governments
throughout Michigan. The law needs to be repealed.
Collective bargaining should be a matter of local choice.
In the meantime, although
Lansing city council members are shut out of the collective
bargaining process, they still represent the people of
Lansing and could be making their
voices heard, loud and clear, about Lansing's underfunded
pension systems, how they got that way and what can be done