Negaunee council, union come to agreement

NEGAUNEE – Following several weeks of debate, four Negaunee City Hall employees will most likely remain union members.

A tentative agreement was reached between the Negaunee City Council and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1415 at a special meeting Wednesday night.

The council voted unanimously to direct City Manager Jeff Thornton to rescind a petition to the Michigan Employee Relations Commission that likely would have removed the police chief, city treasurer, city clerk and the city manager’s administrative assistant from the collective bargaining unit.

At its Sept. 19 regular meeting, the council requested that Thornton petition a hearing from MERC to decide whether the four-member city hall unit was eligible for collective bargaining.

The four positions have been in the bargaining unit for 30 years.

Members of AFSCME and their supporters attended several council meetings since the Sept. 19 council action to voice their frustration about the possible removal of the four employees from the union.

Before making the decision, the council went into closed session with AFSCME Local 1415 President Don Larson and AFSCME local representative John Thomas.

Thornton said he has been asked by the council to make some changes before the agreement is finalized, but that should happen in the next few days.

“There are just some small tweaks that need to be made,” Thornton said.

Once Thornton makes the changes, he will present the agreement to AFSCME for the union’s consideration.

Thornton said a meeting with MERC is still scheduled for next Wednesday.

“I have been directed not to cancel that until we get this ratified by the union,” Thornton said.

Thomas said he was pleased that the union and the council were able to reach an agreement.

“I was just looking for security for these four individuals while they’re working here,” Thomas said. “It is yet to be determined as we sign a final agreement, but so far we’re happy with the decision.”

Outgoing council member Diana Menhennick said she felt comfortable with the agreement.

“It establishes a fairness and equity across the board. I would like to think that the new council will move in a new direction to repair trust. This is a step, a baby step, but a good step,” Menhennick said.

Outgoing Mayor Mike Haines also expressed relief at the tentative agreement.

“I hope everybody looks forward to a happy working relationship once again. I am much happier to give this gavel up tonight compared to the last time I gave it up,” Haines said in reference to a meeting held earlier this month where a ceremony was conducted to pass the gavel on to incoming Mayor Dawn Schuhknecht.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-486-4401.