Gautier Denies Public Workers' Request To Unionize

Outside city hall, there were sounds of support for unionization. But inside, was a different story.

"I can't explain the reason behind the city dragging their feet," IBEW Business Manager Jim Couch said.

In a 4-2 vote, City Council members voted down Gautier public worker's request to unionize under the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

"It's a federal given right for them to organize. They contacted us, they said they wanted to organize. Now we're pushing that issue," IBEW Kenny Lett said.

Union leaders told WLOX that a majority of public works employees want to unionize.  Lett said there's a reason those city employees weren't on the picket line.

"Most of them fear for their jobs. They're afraid if they show up here to do something for their own benefit, they'll lose their job," Lett said.

Mayor Pete Pope said he wished employees would have talked to the council about their problems, before deciding to unionize.

"I still wish, before this came to a vote tonight, we had the opportunity to talk to Ms. Wheeler's employees in the city of Gautier," Mayor Pope said.

City Manager Christy Wheeler said she did speak to her employees. In her meeting with workers, Wheeler said no one had complaints.

Some council members said it should be up to the individual if they want to join a union, not the city council.

"For us to say our employees don't deserve a union, that's terrible," Hurley Ray Guilotte said.

But that opinion was the minority, and union leaders aren't ready to give up yet.

"At some point in time, somebody's going to give. We're not going to go away," Couch said.

In Gautier, the police department and the fire department are unionized. And even though the council voted down the public works employees' request, they can still form a union. However, it would not be recognized by the city in any contract negotiations.