The Herald Bulletin

May 2, 2013

City, union to square off in court on Monday

Smith administration wants contract invalidated

By Stuart Hirsch
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — City attorneys on Monday are scheduled to appear before Madison County Circuit Court 6 Judge Dennis Carroll to determine if a collective bargaining agreement with UAW Local 1963 is still valid.

Last month, the Smith administration filed a temporary restraining order and civil complaint against the union seeking a declaration that the contract isn’t valid.

In addition, the city wants an injunction that bars the union from using the agreement’s grievance and arbitration procedures.

The existing contract expired on Dec. 31, 2011. Although it was automatically extended for one year, that date, too, has come and gone, city officials contend.

“The parties have discussed the possibility of beginning negotiations for the purpose of reaching a new agreement. However, no negotiations have begun,” according to the city’s complaint.

Another issue the city contests is a parity clause. Under the agreement, if a wage increase is negotiated with any other city union, Local 1963 members are entitled to a similar increase or lump sum payout.

Even if the court rules the contract is still in effect, the city argues, “the parity clause is unenforceable.”

“These parity provisions unduly limit the city’s ability to negotiate with other unions and unlawfully restrict the city’s ability to conduct it’s affairs,” according to the complaint.

City lawyers unsuccessfully made this same argument last fall when the Smith administration sued Local 1262 of the International Association of Firefighters over provisions in its contract that barred layoffs and set minimum staffing levels.

In that case, Carroll said the right to lay off employees and direct the work force is a core city management responsibility, but he upheld binding arbitration and parity requirements in the firefighter contract.

“There are always economic, contractual, and societal constraints on wage negotiations and salary agreements,” Carroll wrote. “Parity is simply one of those constraints. Therefore, this provision is valid and enforceable.”

In her first public comment since the city issued its restraining order on the union, Local 1963 President Julia Lewis said she was stunned by the city’s action, calling it “very disrespectful.”

“It seems like they are trying to break the union.” she said, adding that no other city administration has ever sued the union in this way.

“This is so uncalled for and it just didn’t have to happen.” Lewis added. “We’re fighting for the betterment of our members and our union.”

Find Stu Hirsch on Facebook and @StuHirsch on Twitter, or call 640-4861.