Here’s the latest from one of our Metro Government folks:
There are difficult issues in Metro government that need strong leadership to even be discussed. These issues are hampering Metro government from realizing greater gains from the taxes we all pay, from providing its own employees with a sense of fairness and constancy in the application of policies and rules, and from being perceived as a first-class metropolitan organization.
Fischer has been in office 3/1/2 years and is running for another term in the Fall. The following was culled from conversations and meetings with current Metro employees and explores how they feel about his leadership thus far. The employees participated on the condition that they remain anonymous. The remarks are all from current employees. It’s important to note that this is a review of Fischer’s leadership of Metro government, not a review of his work as a community leader – that’s another day’s topic.
First up is unions. Short and sweet? Employees are fed up with being asked to put up with unreasonable union contracts and to sacrifice more of their own good in order for union employees – their fellow employees – to be kept well-fed and quiet. Examples given are as follows:
- Teamster Local 783 employees pay $0, that’s right – $0 – premiums for their own health insurance. They pay a greatly reduced amount for their family members. What is that? The Metro community at large is subsidizing their fellow-employees’ benefits. The situation creates a stratified community in which there is no equality and no sense of fairness. The contractual clause in the union contract which allows this is arcane and should be removed. Barring that, no one should pay for their own health insurance and that, we all agree, ain’t gonna happen.
The issue has greater ramifications – it is difficult to sell the notion of additional taxation on the Louisville community when Fischer doesn’t address a simple, equality-creating, revenue-enhancing change such as this – in his own backyard.
- Teamster Local 783 employees are PAID for their lunch break. No non-union employee in Metro receives this benefit. No non-union employee in Metro (or anywhere else on the planet) expects to receive this benefit, and yet Teamsters do. In the face of revenue shortages, of Fischer calling for a new tax, this cost is obscene. How much money would that add to Fischer’s discretionary funds? Millions. Millions, if not immediately, then over time.
Union contracts are re-negotiated periodically – the one referenced above will likely enter negotiation soon since it expires next year, in 2015. Which leads to the third issue with public sector unions in Metro – contract negotiation. To date, union contracts are negotiated by one or two “labor relations” specialists at Metro, assisted by each department’s director. The problem, we are told, is that management doesn’t want to appear to be progressive in their thinking about union contracts because this will lead to an inundation of grievances, of work slow-downs, and of specific targeting of management employees for HR complaints. Any manager who goes to the union negotiation with such notions is torpedoing their own career.
The solution? Leadership from the highest level – from Fischer. Thus far, there hasn’t been any on this critical topic. The public idea that democrats support unions and in return receive union votes is old-school, surely, and if Fischer wants to lead, this is an area crying out for a visionary.
Second up? Elitism. This claim is put forth by those in the middle of Metro’s employee hierarchy. In short, they feel that union members receive benefits from union membership not available to other employees, that Fischer’s managers and directors receive benefits from being highly placed in the administration, and that only they are expected to toe the line, whatever the line happens to be. When asked for examples, the one complained about the loudest was upper management not having to work an 8-hour day but still receiving pay for an 8-hour day.
The Metro “rule” is that if you are a “mayoral appointment” then you only have to be in the office for an hour in order to receive credit for the entire day. I am not making this up. So if you need to pick up your kids from daycare early, or if you want to blow off the afternoon and go shopping or go to Oaks on a sunny Friday in May, well, no problem! Go to the office for an hour, and on your time sheet (electronic or otherwise) put down 40. Voila! The rationale for this is that those in such jobs could be fired or let go on a moment’s notice, and so such a perk was a small thing.
But now, Fischer is requiring everyone to re-apply for their jobs – he’s done so in Public Works, and most recently, he did it in APCD. So the idea that those positions are protected by civil service considerations is moot. Those people are just as vulnerable as the mayor’s appointees – no progressive discipline is necessary to get rid of anyone not in the union. So why do some continue to get the perk and not others? If a Mayor’s Chief can take off with the excuse that, “I have my phone with me,” then why not a manager in Public Works? Why not the communications specialist in APCD? To pretend that the policy is not just obsolescent but actually obsolete by 21st century standards is ludicrous, and yet Fischer, to date, has done nothing.
The perk creates an elitist environment in other ways. For those in the Mayor’s circle who receive it, it ensures that they are never the ones being looked at for sick abuse – if you only have to be there an hour in order to get paid for eight, well, most of us will manage that. Or will work from home (the second highest ranking complaint) in order to claim the time. In the long term, Metro participates in the state retirement system, and when you reach the point of retirement, each day of sick leave not used counts towards time in the system. And if only some receive the perk, then only some reap the long term benefit.
Nobody cares if Fischer has personal wealth or runs with those who do. But they care mightily when he applies elitist attitudes to his management of Metro government. A leader would step out beyond his or her personal situation and govern for the good of all, not just the good of the few. Fischer’s grade in leadership thus far? He’d be fine if he were taking the class on a Pass/Fail basis. Otherwise, he needs to work harder on the harder issues – it’s called leadership.