Union Negotiations Spill into Public View

Libby city employees have been working without contract since June

By Justin Franz

While union negotiations between the city of Libby and its employees traditionally take place in private, the back and forth between the two sides spilled into public view during a recent city council meeting.

During the Sept. 8 meeting, union member Kenny Rayome Jr. told the council that Mayor Doug Roll was “telling the union one thing and the city council another” and negotiations had stalled. Roll called the public comments by Rayome “highly unprofessional” and said negotiations were proceeding by the books. The issue arose during the city meeting because the council was voting on employee salaries, which was passed, even though the contract had not been negotiated yet.

The city employees’ current contract expired on July 1 and since then the union employees, represented by the American Federations of State, County and Municipal Employees, and city officials have not agreed to a new contract. Among the union’s proposals is that they work under a three-year contract instead of one year and that they receive raises to account for cost-of-living increases. However, there is confusion over who the union should be negotiating with. Roll said as mayor it is his job to broker a deal before taking it to the city council for a vote. But some members of council and union members, including Rayome, said it should take place with the negotiation committee. All sides hope to sort through the issue this week so negotiations can continue.

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