As city of Jacksonville negotiators square off with union heads for a protracted round of collective bargaining, Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel advises legislators to stay in their lane.
In an email sent Friday to council members, Gabriel noted that “questions have been raised recently with respect to whether City Council members should accept invitations from union representatives to meet and discuss labor related matters, particularly during this time when the City is in active labor negotiations with the various unions.”
Don’t even think about it, Gabriel asserts: “the Office of General Counsel advises that City Council members not participate in discussions with union representatives as such communications may be used as a basis for an unfair labor practice complaint alleging bad faith bargaining or may be characterized as engaging in collective bargaining negotiations outside the sunshine (collective bargaining negotiations are required to be conducted in a public meeting).”
Council members — many of whom were supported by these unions during their campaigns — are to “refer [union heads] to the City’s bargaining team for any conversation on matters under negotiation.”
Council’s coziness with one union head became a matter of public record during the budget vote last fall.
In a measure involving “safety officer” positions in the fire and rescue department, a second vote to retain those positions passed where the first one failed.
It turned out that the head of the fire union was texting council members, essentially whipping votes.
While that worked, it created months of legal uncertainty for some council members, as city watchdog groups took legal action against those parties texting during the council meeting.