GRAND FORKS – Every single Grand Forks municipal worker was on hand last night for the Grand Forks City Council meeting. The 32 members of CUPE local 4728 and their families held signs calling for “a workplace built on respect.”
The silent protest came after City administrator Doug Allin announced his plans late last week to eliminate three jobs, including that of union local president Sukie Lawrence. Allin told union members the job cuts are part of an “asset management plan” to address future infrastructure funding. The plan he announced late last week includes raising local taxes and rates and cutting public services as well as the loss of local jobs.
Lawrence says eliminating the positions without layoff and recall rights contravenes the collective agreement between the city and its unionized workers. “We believe the cuts may have more to do with the poisoned workplace at the City of Grand Forks than with financial considerations,” he says. He added that the announcement is the latest in a series of moves by the city’s administration that have negatively affected city employees.
“We wanted to let the mayor and council know that there are serious problems in the workplace that need to be addressed,” says Lawrence. “Our members love their jobs and are proud members of the community, but an atmosphere of fear and mistrust is eroding the good working relationship we have traditionally had (with the city).”
Lawrence said the union local will be meeting tonight to discuss the latest developments and to plan next steps. The union represents inside and outside municipal workers in Grand Forks.