The city of Duluth and its biggest union reached a contract agreement last week, staving off a possible strike of municipal workers, but some tension remains in the blustery Lake Superior air.
Peter Passi, in the Duluth News Tribune Buzz Duluth blog, notes that city council members are unhappy with the cost of negotiations and some are mad that city employees were bad-mouthed, while one thinks the union was out of line in the strike process:
Councilor Kerry Gauthier took the city administration to task for not actively engaging in negotiations earlier and for hiring an out-of-town attorney to lead those efforts. He suggested the $50,000 in payments authorized to pay this attorney could have been better spent.
“I’d like to look at how we do negotiations,” said Gauthier. “It seems to me that adopting an adversarial relationship doesn’t help workers, doesn’t help the city and doesn’t help the administration.”
Councilor Sharla Gardner seconded Gauthier and said she was tired of hearing city employees repeatedly demonized.
“In recent years, there has been a trend in some parts of our community to blame city workers for everything that has gone wrong for the last 25 years,” she said. “It has been a pretty successful campaign, but I would like to see it stopped,” she said.
Gardner said city employees deserve respect, especially as their numbers dwindle and workers shoulder more duties. She commended the city’s administration for successfully negotiating a contract with AFSCME Local 66 and averting a strike.
Councilor Jay Fosle suggested AFSCME has been just as guilty of incivility. Following comments he made on this blog about the mayor needing to prepare for a possible strike, including the possibility of hiring replacement workers, Fosle said he was subjected to a bit of intimidation.
“I was told to watch my back, and I didn’t appreciate that,” he said, referring to the comments as “uncalled for, to say the least.”
It sounds like the council may need a little time to stand down on this issue.