The Louisville Metro Council is set to debate an ordinance Thursday that would exempt union contracts from the city’s financial disclosure law and has divided lawmakers along partisan lines.
Last week, the council budget committee passed the legislation that would let Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration avoid submitting a financial impact statement for negotiated agreements between the city and public employees.
Council Democrats say the disclosure of those costs would harm collective bargaining agreements and good faith negotiations, but council Republicans say the process should be transparent for taxpayers.
The ordinance is sponsored by Councilman David James, D-6, a former Louisville FOP president, who has the support of enough Democrats to pass ordinance.
He says the local GOP is waging a war on workers similar to the efforts to undo collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin.
“Of course they’re not going to say ‘we’re going to go out and attack unions and workers,’ the transparency flag, accountability and all those things are what the financial impact statement is said to be about, but it is proven time, after time, after time, that this was the building block that led to the next step, which led to the next step, which led to the end,” he says.
But James, like other many other council Democrats who support the amendment, have received heavy campaign contributions from public unions. According to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, James has received over $4,500 from local labor groups.
He says the contributions had no influence in his decision to introduce the amendment and the donations came from constituents, many of whom also belong to unions.
Republican Councilman Jerry Miller, R-19, has been the lead voice calling for the mayor to release a financial impact statement on two union contracts negotiated earlier this years. He says it is tough to question council Democrats’ motives, but argues taxpayers should be able to know the details of the deals.
“It does raise though in the mind of citizens is there a conflict of interest there and the city’s negotiator was formerly a negotiator for some unions, which it seemed to me it’s almost like the fox watching the hen house,” he says. “This is half the budget and citizens need to know what’s in it. What’s half their tax money going for? And I think again, they have a right to know.”
Council Democrats and labor leaders have criticized Miller for only asking to review contracts involving unions while overlooking other deals made between the city and businesses.
The full council is set to debate and vote on the measure this Thursday.
You can listen to the full debate between council members James and Miller here.