LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Union contract exemption from city law advances


On a party-line vote, Democrats on the Louisville Metro Council's Budget Committee approved a measure Monday exempting union contracts from a city law that requires financial impact statements to be submitted with any ordinance ratifying a contract that spends unbudgeted public dollars.

The vote came after an hour of heated debate, during which committee Democrats questioned their Republican colleagues' motives and accused them of trying to harm the collective bargaining process by requesting documentation of the amounts new union contracts cost taxpayers.

Mayor Greg Fischer's administration supports the exemption.

Mark L. Miller, the administration's chief negotiator, said the exemption will allow negotiations to happen without "having any intervention or anybody looking over our shoulders."

He said such financial impact statements have never been provided to nor requested by the council - a point that was contested by Republicans, who say the documents were requested in the past but never provided by former Mayor Jerry Abramson's administration.

The council unanimously passed the 2004 ordinance that requires any unbudgeted contract to have a financial impact statement.

Miller said requiring the fiscal documentation would make it more difficult for him to negotiate with the 26 bargaining units representing municipal workers and would allow them to compare what other unions received and ask for the same thing.

"The days of 'Me, too' are gone," Miller said, before acknowledging that information about wage increases and benefits are available because the contracts are public documents.

Councilman Jerry Miller, who is not related to Mark Miller and who twice this year requested financial impact statements on union contracts, said he's not trying to bust up unions. But the people looking over the administration's shoulder are taxpayers, he said.

"This is not about collective bargaining; it's about transparency," he said.

Other Republicans - Kevin Kramer, Ken Fleming and Kelly Downard - said they were not trying to harm the collective bargaining process, or trying to take the responsibility for negotiating those contracts from the administration.

"How does this interfere with bargaining?" Downard asked. "It's just not that complicated. This allows me to say ... where ... is this budgeted? That's my job. Financial impact is my job. So this ordinance is just way out of proportion to me."

Democrat Mary Woolridge said Republicans in Wisconsin have tried to eliminate collective bargaining, and she thinks her Republican colleagues are trying to take a first step toward that in Louisville.

"I think (they) want to weaken the unions," Woolridge said.

"This really does boil down to: Where is this coming from?" Democrat Rick Blackwell said. "It is about unions. It is about the ways (they) can attack unions. It is about that war on workers. Let's be transparent about our motives here."

Downard, vice chairman of the committee, called those arguments "hollow."

"Just saying I don't need to know isn't good enough for me, folks," he said.

All eight Democrats on the committee voted in favor of the exemption; all four Republicans voted against it.

The ordinance now goes to the full council, on which Democrats have a 17-9 majority.