City workers take their case to council

City workers take their case to council

April 13th, 2011 by Cliff Hightower in News

Jonathan Lehman, left, a firefighter, speaks as Steve West, a member of the Service Employees International Union, listens Tuesday at the City Council meeting. Both men were there to tell the City Council about their problems concerning pay, pensions and appeals for firefighters and police officers. Staff Photo by Allison Carter/Chattanooga Times Free Press


Fire, police and city worker unions came before the City Council on Tuesday night and listed several grievances they wanted it to consider. Those grievances were:

* Pension: Make no changes to the city's pension plans.

* Retirement: Restore health care for city workers 65 and older who are coming into the system.

* Overtime: Make sure all employees are compensated after they work 40 hours a week.

* Appeals: Allow all city workers to have a chance for disciplinary hearings.

Firefighter Jonathan Lehman, flanked by union members, told the council Tuesday night it needed to hear the concerns of the employees who keep the city running.

He said the city needed to restore benefits, and not cut others.

"We are not irrational," Lehman said. "We are not greedy."

Dozens of firefighters, policemen and city workers crowded into the assembly room of the City Council building Tuesday night to voice their concerns. Leh-man spoke to the council for about four minutes, letting them know the feelings of the city workers.

He said the city needs to restore some retirement benefits cut last year, make sure workers are paid overtime, not cut any of the pension plans and let all workers have a right to disciplinary hearings.

"I do hear your concerns," Councilman Russell Gilbert said during the meeting.

Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said after the meeting she realized the unions have concerns. But she said the council also has to make sure the benefits package is competitive without being too costly to taxpayers.

"What we do today affects us years down the road," she said.

Detective Phil Grubb, president of the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, said afterward they were only asking for "what we had last year." He said he thought the council heard the message.

"I think they heard us," he said. "But they heard us before."

In other business, the council voted 9-0 to appoint Ladd as the new chairwoman and Councilman Jack Benson as the vice chairman. Councilman AndraƩ McGary also put in his name for vice chairman but received no nomination or votes.

Also, the council approved 9-0 a resolution allowing Chattanooga Zoo Director Darde Long to lease a barn at the Brown Acres Golf Course. Neighbors had some concerns about dogs being kept in the barn, but Parks and Recreation Director Larry Zehnder said Tuesday those concerns had been addressed.