On Jan. 1
Local Firefighters Union 396 shifted into unfamiliar territory. For the
first time in history, the union is working without a labor contract.
comes as the latest in the conflict between the city administration and
the union’s leadership. With Superior Court IV Judge George Hopkins
ruling against the union in a civil suit, which in part sought to force
arbitration between the city and union – as well as extend the union’s
contract past the end of the year – the union’s previous contract has
the union filed a joint request for clarification on the judge’s
previous ruling. According to the union’s filing, “the parties are not
in accord regarding the intent of the court’s ruling as it affects the
entirety of the lawsuit. Specifically, the parties disagree as to
whether the court, by its ruling, deems the entire lawsuit now
completed and disposed of.”
local ordinance, the parties may reconvene to restart collective
bargaining in March. That would leave a few months where the
firefighters function under the city’s employee guidebook instead of
their own contract. City officials said that change has no effect on
how services are provided, but Frazier claims this is shaky ground.
really want the people who serve your city to have the uncertainty of
not having a contract with our job being as stressful as it is?” said
Frazier. “How does that serve the city of Kokomo? Do you want your
employees being stressed out doing a stressful job? Is that a good
thing? No, it’s not. It’s terrible. It’s terrible. That’s the whole
crux of this. This doesn’t have to be the way it is.”
appeared before the board of works to read a public statement last
week. However, the board referred him to the city’s human resources
before he could complete his speech. Frazier later provided his
statement to the media, and in it he wrote, “To put simply, we want the
BOW to do what is fair by allowing a neutral party to arbitrate this
Goodnight said the ball is in the union’s court in coming to the table
for further bargaining ahead of March.
told by a judge that they were wrong and their request was denied,”
said Goodnight. “So really the ball is in their court. They are
initiating everything. They are just being told by different groups
that they are wrong. I guess I can’t speculate what their next move is.”
interview, Frazier voiced numerous frustrations with how the process of
collective bargaining has played out with the city this year.
largely pointed to Goodnight as the reason collective bargaining was
unsuccessful. He indicated that much time was spent negotiating points
of the prospective contract just to have it shot down by the mayor. He
said he believed the mayor had a personal issue with the department.
know what [Goodnight’s] issue is with the fire department,” said
Frazier. “He’s had an issue with us from day one. We don’t know what it
is. Nobody knows. People in the public stop us and ask us when we’re
out. When I’m at work people stop me and ask me, ‘Why does the mayor
hate you guys?’ I don’t know. I have no idea. But it’s obvious to the
public that that’s the case. We just don’t know.”
point Goodnight disagreed.
to the final offer made to the firefighters during collective
bargaining as evidence of not having a personal issue with the
department. In that offer, the union was offered two-percent raises and
increases in longevity pay and clothing allowances. Instead, the mayor
said Frazier is looking for someone to blame for his own shortcomings.
“I wasn’t in
on negotiations, so I literally can’t speak to that,” said Goodnight.
“But the issue is he failed in his job, and he’s looking for somebody
to blame. He never gave his members the opportunity to vote on the
contract. He never researched the ordinance, and therefore he didn’t
take the time to understand the law. Therefore, he got an unfavorable
ruling from Judge Hopkins. And he did a poor job of representing his
members because he let the contract expire. He made three or four big
mistakes. This is union president 101.”
interview, Frazier also took aim at Janie Young, the council member who
served as the Kokomo Common Council’s representative during collective
claimed Young wasn’t active in the collective bargaining process and
even said she fell asleep during meetings.
Janie young was falling asleep in our meetings. It’s absurd,” said
Frazier. “She was falling asleep during our meetings. Our guys were
complaining to me, ’How do we have a good negotiation when our council
representative can’t stay awake during our meetings?’”
the allegation and instead took shots at Frazier.
way that I would be falling asleep,” said Young. “You know what, that’s
just a flat-out lie … If anything maybe he’s a little bit disturbed.
Maybe they don’t really need him negotiating for them.”
said that at some point she hopes both parties can come to a “mutual
agreement” with collective bargaining, and she said she didn’t’ see
anything she’d construe as “unfair” during the process.
would like to see that we can come to some mutual understanding,” said
Young. “Like the judge said, maybe now we can see what it is and where
we go from here.”