It was the City Council in Middletown, a small city in southwestern Ohio, that provided the initial push for that state’s Republican-dominated legislature to draft SB 5, the attack on public workers’ collective bargaining rights last year. The City Council passed a resolution calling on the state to take action against public workers’ contracts “so local governments can control their own finances.” That was used by the GOP majority in the legislature as the basis for drafting SB 5. While unions and their allies organized a massive fight against SB 5, sending it down in flames, that same council this month took another action that shows that its members are far from learning from that huge defeat.
The Middletown City Council voted 6-1 to change city rules and give the city manager, Judith Gilleland, a big raise. This action came a year after Middletown’s public unions had agreed to forgo any raises in their contracts, “to prohibit the city from going into further economic decline.”
“This is a real slap in the face of public workers, who’ve seen the big picture and sacrificed for the good of the city,” said Chris Klug, vice president of Local 336, Association of Firefighters in Middletown. “Four firefighters, who were there to protect the people of our city, were laid off last year and two other jobs for retiring firefighters weren’t filled, due to a supposed economic crisis. Now they do this. It shows who they really think is important!”
The Middletown city workers’ contract includes “longevity raises” equal to 1% of their salary after 10 years with the city, 2% after 15 years and 3% after 20 years. After originating the attack on Ohio public workers’ bargaining rights, and pushing Middletown’s public unions to agree to freezing these raises, the City Council last week took the unprecedented step of changing city rules ONLY for the city manager, giving her longevity raises of 3% starting after only five years and going up from there.
“This sets a horrible example for the whole city,” said Councilman A. J. Smith, the council’s only Democrat, who voted against the motion. “They want to cut workers’ salaries and give it to management. That is a horrible example.”
A joint press release by Middletown’s public unions said Gilleland should “lead by example and adhere to the same practices she’s asked us to follow.”
Photo: Middletown, Ohio, firefighters and emergency responders. IAFF336.org