Union members rally to gather support, maintain bargaining rights

Union members rally to gather support, maintain bargaining rights

NEGAUNEE — Union members made sure their voices were heard tonight at the Negaunee City Council meeting.

In September, the City Council filed a petition with the Michigan Employee Relations Committee to see if the jobs in the bargaining unit at city hall were allowed to be in a union or not. That decision has ruffled a lot of feathers.

The union in question, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, held a rally before the meeting to make their cause known. Then they headed down to the Council meeting to speak at public comment.

“What we’re here for tonight is we’re trying to gain some respect for these employees to let the community know that these employees are real people and they deserve to have the right to be represented by a union,” said John Thomas, the staff representative for Michigan Council 25 of AFSCME.

“It is so important that people understand, and not just the UP, but all across the state of Michigan that labor has built our state. It’s very important if we have small bargaining units left, like 1415, that we have people that should be supported. They do a good service for our community, they’re wonderful people, they’re our friends and neighbors, and they should be supported and they need to have a contract,” added State Representative Scott Dianda.

AFSCME members complain that the Councils decision to petition was made out of the blue and behind closed doors. But, the council says otherwise.

“It actually became an issue some years ago with, in ’96, the law change. Its just the functioning of a city, having the administrative and executive staff represented and in the same bargaining unit as the people they oversee is a very awkward position,” said Negaunee City Manager Jeff Thornton.

AFSCME members hope that the council will consider retracting their petition. The Michigan Employee Relations Committee has not released it’s response to the petition.