Attorney For Mountain Water Employees Comments on Their Future With The City
Tuesday's Montana Supreme Court decision that upheld the City of Missoula's effort to force the sale of the Mountain Water Company affects almost everyone in Missoula.
The company itself, the thousands of customers, and most immediately, the many employees of the system that are left wondering about their future.
Gary Zadick represented the employees during the recent litigation, and spoke for them during oral arguments before the Supreme Court in April. He said all the employees are proud of the work they've done to provide service to their customers, and wish to continue.
"Number one, they're proud of the water system and the service they provide," Zadick said. "They want to continue that, but they're unsure about the city's plan about whether they'll remain as a group or not. They want to continue operating the system and they don't want to be harmed by cuts in wages or benefits, or being dispersed to other departments. They've worked together all these years and they want to remain together as a group, and those are issues we'll have to address with the city."
Zadick was encouraged by Mayor Engen's conciliatory tone during Wednesday's press conference, in which the mayor quoted Abraham Lincoln, offering an olive branch to those who have been negative toward the city's efforts to acquire the utility.
"I will take the mayor at his word and I think that's a great attitude," he said. "There was no malice on the part of the employees. It was contentious at times when the city wanted the employees to sign separate contracts by drop-dead deadlines, and I hope that's all past us. We hope the mayor is a man of his word and a friend to labor as he says he's always been."
Zadick said the Mountain Water employees are hoping to stay together and bargain in good faith as a group, rather than as individuals.
"They're not in a union right now," he continued. "As prospective employees, they want to negotiate with the city as a group. We formed a group when we began the litigation, and so that's how they want to proceed as a group, and I'd be pleased to continue to represent them, but that's their call."
The Montana Supreme Court voted 5-2 in favor of the city, allowing the forced sale of Mountain Water to go forward.