Airport firefighters, police officers voting on unionization

Police officers and firefighters who work at Indianapolis International Airport are casting votes this week to decide whether to unionize.

In separate elections, 46 eligible police officers and 40 eligible firefighters are voting on whether to join the International Union of Police Associations and the Indianapolis Professional Firefighters Union Local 416, respectively.

The two-day voting period began Wednesday and concludes Thursday afternoon.

Local 416 President Hank Harris said the airport’s fire department is the only non-union department in Marion County, and that was a motivator to unionize. “I think one of the big things was to feel like they were part of the profession in the county.”

Harris said the fire department and the police department have been unionized in the past, but they have been non-union since 2011, when the airport’s leadership withdrew its recognition of unions for airport employees.

The Indianapolis Airport Authority changed that situation in May when its board of directors voted to permit unionization of the airport’s public safety employees. On Friday, the board voted to authorize this week’s elections.

The airport’s police officers were previously affiliated with a non-police union, said Jeff Edmiston, director of field operations for the International Union of Police Associations.

Joining the IUPA would give the airport officers access to the union’s legal defense program, which offers free legal representation to members who are charged with civil or criminal offenses.

Ballots will be counted for each election Thursday afternoon. If a majority of votes are in favor of unionization, airport authority Executive Director Mario Rodriguez will then officially recognize the unions.

Rodriguez will also represent the airport authority board in any future collective bargaining negotiations, though the contracts themselves would require board approval.

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