In a narrow vote, labor unions won the right Monday to have city of Charlotte employees have their union dues voluntarily deducted directly from their paychecks.
The Charlotte City Council voted 6-5 to allow the automatic payroll deduction or union dues checkoff. The council had a vigorous debate about the role of unions in city government, and some council members said they needed more time before voting.
The United Electrical Workers Local 150 has been trying to recruit city workers, particularly those in the sanitation department.
The union has pushed for the automatic deductions as part of a so-called Workers Bill of Rights it has presented to the city. It held protests before the city council last year and also lobbied for the deductions during the Democratic National Convention in September.
This means we are in the door, said James Locklear, a city sanitation worker and United Electrical Workers union member. Now we can start talking about other issues.
The city already allows employees to make automatic payroll deductions for some charities such as United Way.
Democrats John Autry, LaWana Mayfield, Claire Fallon, Beth Pickering, Patrick Cannon and James Mitchell voted for the payroll deduction.
This isnt a lot to ask for these folks, said Pickering. Many of these folks put their lives on the line every day.
Republicans Andy Dulin and Warren Cooksey voted no, along with Democrats David Howard, Michael Barnes and Patsy Kinsey.
Cooksey said he didnt want the city to become a collection agency for unions.
Barnes and Kinsey said they support payroll deduction for unions, but they wanted more time to understand how much the deductions would cost the city.
The change is a small step for unions in a state where they have little traction.
No city worker would be required to join a union. And by state law, the city of Charlotte and municipalities cant bargain collectively with unions.
The deductions could impact four other unions, including the Fraternal Order of Police and the International Association of Firefighters.
Any union that wishes to participate would have to pay the city a $1,000 annual fee to pay for the cost of implementing the deductions, City Attorney Bob Hagemann said. There would be no minimum number of employees needed to participate for the city to begin deductions.