On Saturday, July 14, an anti-consolidation rally, which is supported by the SEIU/SAGE Union Local 1985, will commence at nine o’clock in the morning on Patterson Street in Macon.
The participants plan to march to Macon City Hall between 10 am and noon in an effort to send a resounding message that HB-1171 should not be passed.
Organizers want to bring awareness to a July 31 referendum measure, HB-1171, which is designed to consolidate Macon and Bibb County.
Opponents of HB-1171, cite that the legislation– designed to dramatically change city and county government– is flawed and would cause more problems along with deliver unintended consequences.
Job losses in city and county government are likely if consolidation is passed, and the threat of pensions being changed without any recourse is a persistent concern that will have an impact on those who are currently working in local governments and government retirees who live in Macon and Bibb County.
Current Macon mayor Robert Reichert, a conservative Democrat, is a proponent of consolidation and is poised to continue the trend of cutting jobs and fulfilling the conservative narrative of less government, undermining unions and fewer services delivered to the people of Macon and Bibb County.
On Monday, April 16, a vocal crowd gathered at City Hall in response to complaints from retirees of the fire and police departments that Reichert has ulterior motives in regard to dealing with pensions.
Bibb County Commissioner, Joe Allen, addressed Reichert along with the Macon Fire and Police Employees Retirement System board and wanted clarity to how the pension situation will be handled moving forward
Will money be taken away from retirees for other budgetary purposes, especially if Macon and Bibb County consolidates?
If consolidation passes, more and more people will lose their jobs or benefits and Reichert has already proven that he is ready to be a conduit of big changes.
Reichert had signed an executive order in November 2009 prior to the Thanksgiving that involved the City of Macon releasing 31 city employees.
However, city workers that received their pink slips only received one week’s severance pay.
Macon City Council passed an ordinance to extend severance pay for 26 weeks, but Mayor Reichert had vetoed the measure.
Fast forward to 2012.
Reichert attempted to reassure everyone that the pensions are safe. This effort may pacify some, but HB-1171 has a lot of flaws and there is an old adage…”the devil is in the details”…
HB-1171 was rushed through the Georgia General Assembly with little public debate of what’s in the bill and was rushed onto the ballot as a referendum item in the middle of summer– the July 31 primary.
HB-1171 is the brainchild of local Republicans led Rep. Allen Peake and the majority-conservative local delegation. However, HB-1171 became a reality when State Sen. Miriam Paris, an African-American Democrat won a special election in August 2011.
Peake and local Republicans endorsed Paris during the 2011 special election and the August runoff campaign.. Additionally, local Republicans from North Bibb/North Macon that normally vote for politicians such as Nathan Deal, Sonny Perdue and Saxby Chambliss crossed over to vote for Paris over State Rep. David Lucas, a progressive Democrat.
Paris’ win buoyed by conservative support helped to push Allen Peake’s legislation forward due to the fact that both state senators are needed to push ‘local legislation’.
Paris was the last piece of Peake’s plan to ram through a consolidation bill prior to the 2012 general election, because Bubber Epps of Twiggs County had defected to the Republican Party shortly after the 2010 elections.
So the stage is set for July 31 and even though the chief selling point by Republicans is that the majority-black Macon City Council would be abolished and the number of representatives would be reduced–especially in majority black areas of Macon– one must consider how current government workers and retirees–regardless of race or political affiliation– will be treated.
There is a lot at stake for Macon and Bibb County and the rally by the SEIU Local 1835 want to bring awareness to HB-1171 prior to July 31 so Macon-Bibb voters will be prepared to vote “no”.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is a labor union representing about 1.8 million workers in over 100 occupations across the nation.
SEIU is focused on organizing workers in three areas: health care (over half of members work in the health care field), including hospital, home care and nursing home workers; public services (local and state government employees); and property services (including janitors, security officers and food service workers).
SEIU is the fastest growing labor union in the United States and has over 150 local chapters.
Macon’s SEIU office is located at 309 Main Street in Macon.