VOL. 126 | NO. 133 | Monday, July 11, 2011
Municipal Unions Sue City Over Budget
By Bill Dries
A coalition of labor unions representing city employees has filed a lawsuit in Memphis federal court over the recently approved 4.6 percent cut in city employees pay and a $13 million voluntary buyout of city sanitation workers.
Both measures were approved last month as part of the overall city operating budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.
In the lawsuit, which the unions hope to make a class action lawsuit, the unions claim the pay cut violates the city’s impasse ordinance and represents a change in the contracts and memoranda of understanding with different city employee groups with whom the administration negotiates.
Because the terms allegedly changed, the unions contend in the lawsuit “the city deprived the unions of their right to petition the city council for redress under the impasse ordinance.” And that, the unions contend, violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“By unilaterally reducing the compensation and benefits of its employees, in violation of the economic terms mutually accepted and established pursuant to the impasse ordinance, the city deprived its employees of a property interest without due process, in violation of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” the lawsuit also claims.
The unions are seeking a preliminary injunction and later a permanent injunction barring the city from enacting the pay cut and the sanitation workers buyout without going through the impasse procedure.
“We’re plowing new territory here,” Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. said when asked about the lawsuit Monday morning. “I respect the legal process. That’s the way to do it.”
City Council chairman Myron Lowery said, “That’s what the courts are for. I understand their frustrations and concerns. When you feel you are right, you need an objective party to decide the matter.”