Memphis' City Employee Unions Rally

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - Memphis' 13 city employee unions rallied Saturday protesting proposed changes to how city council deals with contract impasses.
 
Hundreds of people gathered at Poplar and Highland in East Memphis ahead of the city council's planned vote on the so-called impasse ordinance Tuesday.
 
The crowd was made up union workers such as police, firefighters, machinists, painters, carpenters, and more. Some workers came from as far as Nashville and Laurel, Mississippi, to show their support.
 
"If this ordinance passes on Tuesday in its current form then that will take away any obligation that the city has to recognize the contracts with its 13 labor unions, and it could be really bad for the city if that happens," said Matt Cunningham, lead negotiator with the Memphis Police Association.
 
Cunningham said after the 1978 police and fire strike, citizens passed a referendum that took away city employees' right to strike. In exchange, Cunningham said a dispute resolution mechanism was put in place allowing labor unions to resolve contract disputes without being pushed to the level of a strike.
 
Union leaders said they're open to compromise if the city wants to streamline the process, but the current language won't work.
 
"It really literally strips the unions and the labor organizations of their power to bargain fairly, that's what it would essentially do," said Anthony McGhee with AFSCME.
 
Memphis City Councilman Kemp Conrad, who wants the changes to the impasse committee rules, released this statement Saturday:
 
"I believe the lawyers for labor, the administration and council are generally aligned on a compromise ordinance. Hopefully over the next couple of days the labor organizations will formally support as well. I appreciate the reasonable labor leaders that have worked hard with us over the last week to craft an agreement, despite the silly and self aggrandizing antics of Mike Williams as he appears to gear up his next mayoral campaign for 2019."
 
Local Memphis reached out to Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams for a response, but did not hear back as of Saturday evening.
 
A spokesperson for the mayor's office said they are working with labor groups to reach a compromise.
 

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