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Keokuk Rejects Union Contracts

Jun 7, 2013

The Keokuk City Council has rejected proposed contracts for the city's entire union workforce.

Keokuk City Council

The resolution to ratify new contracts or contract extensions for employees in the police department, the fire department, the general unit and the water pollution control plant through June 2016 was defeated 5-3.

Two of the "NO" votes even came from aldermen who helped negotiate the contracts on the city's behalf.

At-Large Alderman John Helenthal says he voted against the contracts because the city agreed to pay employee taxes associated with the new federal health care law in exchange for smaller wage increases.

"I know why we did what we did," says Helenthal, "trying to get things done, trying to get a happy medium between the city (and the workers), but after reconsidering it and the more I thought about it, I had to change my vote."

Helenthal says he is also worried that covering the tax would set a precedent for future contracts.

The other council members who voted against the contract's echoed Helenthal's sentiments during the discussion.

He is confident the differences can be worked out in time for new contracts to be voted on later this month.

Mayor Tom Marion says the four employee unions had already ratified the contracts, which required mediation to be completed.

He says it's possible arbitration could be required to settle on a new contract or that union employees could be working after July 1 without a contract.

Non-union employees are also affected by the vote as they were set to receive similar financial packages.

Finance Committee Chairman Roger Bryant says union workers would have received pay raises of 2%, 2.5%, and 2.5% during the proposed three-year contracts.

Voted Against the Contracts
- Mike O'Connor (Ward 1)
- Mike Moore (Ward 2)
- Ron Payne (Ward 3) *Served on Negotiating Committee
- Zane Zirkel (At Large)
- John Helenthal (At Large) *Served on Negotiating Committee

Voted For the Contracts
- Sandy Pollitt (Ward 5)
- Roger Bryant (Ward 6) *Served on Negotiating Committee
- Susan Dunek (Ward 7)

- Larry Mortimer (Ward 4)