(FALL RIVER, Mass.) – A majority of the Fall River City Council was noticeably absent Tuesday night at a special meeting called by Mayor Jasiel Correia II to address concerns of importance to the Teamsters.
The issue before the council was a discussion and vote on the collective bargaining agreement between the city’s Department of Community Maintenance (DCM) and Teamsters Local 251. Also on the agenda was a vote to approve a $245,000 settlement agreement that had been reached between the city and Local 251, which would have effectively ended the high-profile lawsuit that was filed by the union following the privatization of the city’s trash pickup.
According to the mayor’s office, all nine city council members received the settlement agreement and proposed changes to the collective bargaining agreement on Feb.16. This allowed time for the council to review and prepare for the regularly scheduled Feb. 21 city council meeting where the item was slated to be formally discussed and voted on. That process was not followed.
Councilman Richard Cabeceiras instead motioned to refer the contract to the council’s finance committee. The motion was seconded by Councilman Raymond Mitchell and it passed unanimously. The next finance committee meeting was to be held March 14, which put the city in violation of a March 1 deadline to address the Teamsters’ collective bargaining agreement and settlement agreement.
The mayor agreed to hold a special meeting on Tuesday in order to rectify this issue caused by city council members. Six of the nine council members did not show up for this meeting, leaving Teamster members’ collective bargaining agreement and settlement in the balance.
“I was surprised,” said Teamsters Business Agent and DCM representative Nick Williams. “The next regularly scheduled meeting of the finance committee isn’t being held until March 14, and one of the terms of the settlement clearly states that on or by March 1, 2017, the city agrees to make the sum of $245,000 available for payments to members or former members of the bargaining unit.”
When Cabeceiras was asked why he had made a motion that put the city in direct violation of the agreement, Cabeceiras said, “The administration never told us that there was a deadline included in the settlement agreement. None of us knew about that March 1 date.”
“The council had five days to read a three-page document, and not one of them caught that March 1 deadline? They failed to do their job,” Williams said.
Williams said the special meeting was a second chance for the council to correct a mistake that they had made and solve a problem they had created.
“Rather than do the right thing and vote on this, the special meeting was boycotted by Council President Shawn Cadime, Council Vice President Linda Pereira, Councilman Cliff Ponte, Councilman Cabeceiras, Councilman Mitchell and Councilwoman Pam Laliberte-Lebeau. This is the exact opposite of good governance,” Williams said.
According to witnesses, Councilman Mitchell and Councilwoman Laliberte-Lebeau were seen running out of City Hall after their scheduled 5:15 p.m. City Council Committee on Public Works & Transportation meeting which was held directly before the 6:30 p.m. special meeting.
Local 251 Secretary-Treasurer Matthew Taibi responded directly to the council’s maneuver.
“The city council can still do what is right for the hardworking DCM employees and for the laid off workers impacted by privatization,” Taibi said. “The union and city still need to discuss how this flagrant disrespect of Fall River working families impacts the settlement, but we hope the city council can ultimately show the respect that is due.”