27 November 2014

The Middletown, Ohio story continues, like an old soap opera! In response to that city’s council action raising the city manager’s pay, the city’s unions have now pushed back, at least for now killing that increase. Middletown’s city council had inspired last year’s attack on public worker’s bargaining rights by officially asking the Ohio state legislature to “take action to limit public union contracts, so local governments can control their finances.” After last year’s massive struggle by organized labor and regular Ohioans killed SB 5, the state’s attempt to destroy public worker bargaining rights, Middletown’s city voted two week’s ago to change the rules under which the city’s workers are compensated so that only the city manager could get a major pay increase. The council took this action after successfully urging that city’s unions to agree to a wage freeze through the lifetime of their contracts with the city.

As expected, changing the rules of compensation to give the city manager a big raise while strong-arming the workers that work for the city into freezing their wages did not sit well with working folks there. Just two days after the council’s action, the city’s public worker unions held a joint news conference, condemning the council action.

“How is it that the city manager can ask us to take zero pay increases, but then advocate one for herself?,” the joint statement asks.

“Working in the public sector is all about providing community service, not lining your pockets with tax payer dollars.”

The statement closes with the “request that (city manager) Judy Gilleland lead by example and follow the same practices that she’s asked us to follow.”

The following day, 11/17, Gilleland announced that she would turn down the raise!

Like a microcosm of the past year’s struggles, however, the Middletown council action shows that the Republicans that are still in power have yet to learn the lessons from that struggle! Standing up together, united, the unions that represent the majority of Middletown’s workers, like last year’s battles, let that council know that they will not put up with it, that they demand to be treated fairly. Like the fight against SB 5, Middletown’s unions were successful when the city manager turned down the raise council had given to her.

However, and also analogous to the victories we’ve just won, the Middletown council said that the raise was not rescinded, that the manager could take it in the future. In the state and national political arenas, the GOP continues to try to push their unpopular, pro-corporate agenda, even when faced with electoral defeats. Also, like Middletown, unions and their allies will have to stand up united if those attacks are to be defeated!