City Councilor Ken Cockayne said Friday that Ward allowed an atmosphere of intimidation at the special council meeting last night.
He said that union leaders put a poster on the wall of the council chambers headlined something akin to “For or Against Labor Wages” and then listing the four Democratic councilors, with boxes beside them marked YES or NO.
When city Councilor Kevin McCauley spoke of the need to delay a decision on a proposed contract, someone got up and marked a big X through the NO box next to McCauley’s name, Cockayne said.
When city Councilor Kate Matthews indicated her support for McCauley’s position, an X was marked in the NO box beside her name, too, according to Cockayne.
As the meeting proceeded, getting ever more heated, union officials began screaming at McCauley, Cockayne said. They yelled “you’re all done” and “you’re through,” said Cockayne and a number of others.
“It got really out of control,” Cockayne said.
Cockayne said Ward “would never have let any other group or person do what was being done last night. Ward would have thrown them out or called the police.”
“Instead, he sat there doing nothing,” Cockayne said.
“It was thug mentality and union intimidation at its finest,” Cockayne said. “We have a lot of great people working at the city. It’s a shame the union leadership is making them look bad.”
The head of Local 233 of Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees said the confrontation between the mayor and McCauley should never happened at the meeting.
“They stuck us in the middle. They stuck our contract in the middle,” said Mayra Sampson, the union chief and a former city Democratic Party chair who has worked on Ward’s campaigns.
“They need to settle their respect issues outside” and not in public , she said.
Sampson said that some union people were angry last night.
“When you mess with peoples’ livelihoods, they tend to get upset,” she said.
Cockayne said that he can’t help wondering if Ward got so angry because he had negotiated the deal with Sampson, his last campaign treasurer.
“If this isn’t a conflict of interest, I don’t know what it,” Cockayne said.
But Sampson said the contract terms show that her union “considered the economic times and the city’s financial status.”
She said Local 233 gave up a 3 percent pay hike last year to help out the city – money she doubts the union will ever see again – and is getting just 3.3 percent more over two years now, along with paying more for health care and other measures that will save the city money.
Sampson said the bottom line for the union is that “we’re thankful we have jobs” in these hard times so even though her members are the lowest paid city workers, they didn’t push for more.
She said the proposed deal is “more than fair” for taxpayers and a great deal for the city.
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