City of Stillwater workers protest stalled contract negotiations

City of Stillwater workers and their supporters demonstrate outside City Hall.

City of Stillwater workers and their supporters demonstrate outside City Hall.

The City of Stillwater is stalling in contract negotiations with its workers, and members of AFSCME Local 517 are running out of patience.

Before the Stillwater City Council convened its Truth in Taxation hearing last night, city employees and their supporters demonstrated outside City Hall, raising awareness that they have been working without a new contract since 2011.

And Local 517, which represents Stillwater’s building inspectors, city planners, engineers and administrative professionals, is not the only bargaining unit whose contract with the city has long since expired, according to Local 517 member Brad Junker, a community service officer in the Stillwater Police Department who testified during the public hearing.

“Tonight, as far as I understand, all but one of the city’s union contracts remain open,” Junker said.

Before a standing-room-only crowd, Junker questioned how the city could hold a Truth in Taxation hearing on its proposed budget – including labor costs – without first settling its union contracts.

“I ask that you urge your staff to promptly negotiate fair contracts for all city employees,” Junker said. “It’s the right thing to do, and it’s the responsible thing to do.”

A lifelong Stillwater resident who also works as a part-time firefighter, Junker said he and other city employees deserve better than the treatment they are receiving from city management.

Brad Junker, flanked by fellow Local 517 member John Nobels, urges the Stillwater City Council to settle its union contracts.

Brad Junker, flanked by fellow Local 517 member John Nobels, urges the Stillwater City Council to settle its union contracts.

“The employees of this city and the work we do, we touch so many people in so many ways,” Junker said. “We are the face and the voice of the city. We help carry out the ordinances and the policies that have been set forth by the council.

“We like working here. We love working here. We’ve worked diligently and faithfully day in and day out.”

After picketing outside City Hall for an hour before the meeting began, supporters holding signs reading “We Make Stillwater Happen” and “Fair Contract Now” moved inside the hearing room, and they applauded as Junker concluded his remarks to the council.

Local 517 is a part of Council 5 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

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