New billboards take aim at proposed impasse changes, city councilman fires back at union president

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Call it the latest sign showing tension between city unions and the city administration over proposed impasse changes. Eight unions representing city of Memphis employees have put up electronic billboards such as one along Interstate 240 West near the Getwell exit. It says stop the repeal of the impasse ordinance.

"We are trying to come together because there is an attack on the unions in the city. It's not just the police association, but all of the city unions," Mike Williams, the president of the Memphis Police Association, said.

At issue is the ordinance proposed by Councilman Kemp Conrad. It would change the procedure dating back to the aftermath of the 1978 police and fire strikes in Memphis. Instead of having individual impasse committees decide each dispute, the proposal would create a single impasse committee for all disputes.

Conrad was out of town earlier Monday when we tried to reach him. He was recently on WREG's Live at 9, and he was critical of the MPA's Memphis murder rate billboards, but he praised grant money for police officer bonuses.

"These are the same people who put up billboards that jeopardize police officers and hold the city back trying to scare people. I don't put much credence is what the police association says. I wonder what police officers say who stand to get raises?" Conrad said last week.

Still, the unions say the city's proposed changes are unfair to their members.

"They want to have the ability to implement whatever they want to implement and not necessarily the will of the people, and that's where we have a problem," Williams said.

Williams says to expect the unions to become more vocal as negotiations continue

"On the 18th of March we will have a rally at Poplar and Highland. This is not the end. We have a commercial that's consolidated with the unions as well," Williams said.

Later Monday WREG received the following email from Conrad:

“It sounds like Mike Williams has already kicked off his Mayoral campaign for 2019.  The ordinance sponsored by myself and Councilman Ford is purely procedural in nature and is not an attack on anyone.  Mr. Williams who has to create a crisis every week to justify his existence, continues to bamboozle city employees into paying him dues so he can waste their hard earned money on billboards to pad his ego and build name recognition for his next race."