The break discussions all week focused on the recent contract negations. Anger, frustration, dismay, fear, hostility are but a few of the emotions flowing from those who sought answers. Having spent time representing officers as a member of the San Diego Police Officer's Association I was constantly asked questions. Biting my tongue and at the same time trying not to laugh out loud was difficult at best. My personal feelings aside I share the emotions displayed by those who are much more affected by the latest screwing at the hands of the mayor of San Diego. I stand to loose $55 a payday as opposed to $250, like most officers or the $300+ of most Sergeants. People want to blame someone for the screwing the mayor is doing. Their hatred for the mayor is clear, as well it should be.
Many expressed anger, frustration and dismay at the Chief. Many believed the Chief in some way supported the screwing they received. I have never been called a "company man" nor been confused with or accused of being a kiss ass. I can honestly agree the reputation of being an ass-hole, trouble maker, crusader for the little guy, anti administration, union guy was earned and for the most part accurate. I have always loved my job (better than 90% of the time), the people I work with (with a few exceptions), supported the administration (OK, not 100% of the time), was never afraid to speak my mind and always quick to defend an injustice. I saw the Chief's face after returning from City Hall and his knowledge of what was to come from the City imposing the takeaways in the Last Best and Final offer for a contract. The Chief knew what he was in for and it pained him to see what was happening to his officers. The Chief of the San Diego Police Department was NOT the problem or reason for the screwing his officers were about to take.
Attention turned to the Director's for the Association. Young, inexperienced, brash, outgunned, overwhelmed were but of few of the words used to describe the board. Cries for a "Professional" negotiator, new attorney, and a new board of directors were all bantered about. Officers were seeking answers. Like I said, they want someone to blame. They want to "fix" the negotiations some way, some how.
Police Officers are in most cases, problem solvers, fearless, confident, intelligent, type-A persons who are honest and expect honesty from those above them. This includes their Sergeant's, Lieutenant's, Captain, Chief's and those persons elected to serve on the City Council and as Mayor. When any one of these persons violate that trust and lie; break a promise or in some other way betray the trust they have been given by way of their position; Police Officers have to "grin and bare it" so to speak. Unlike the other labor organizations (MEA, 127, Fire Local 145 or City Attorney's Association) Police Officers have NO way to fight back. There is no ability to strike, participate in a "job action" or to seek mediation or arbitration. Police Officers have to bend over and hope and pray some sort of lubrication is used before the imposing or should I say inserting of a negative contract.
I want to go back a few years and talk about history. In the late 70's Pete Wilson was mayor of San Diego. The City and POA were in labor negotiations. The City was not offering a pay raise and the officers were upset. San Diego Police Officers were the lowest paid in the region and were seeking to rectify this. Pete Wilson holds a press conference and tells the citizens and Police Officers he was holding the line on pay and benefits and Officer's should be satisfied with their pay and "Living in Sunny San Diego was worth 10%" (Indicating the sunny weather was worth a 10% pay increase). Officers were leaving in large numbers. Most lateraling to the Sheriff's Department. In 1978, 1979 and 1980 the San Diego Police Department hired almost 500 police officers. Several Academy classes had over 100 officers in them. In my class (April 30,1979, the 93rd Police Academy Class) we started with 113 officers in 3 sections. We graduated 109. Today, April 24, 2009, six days shy of 30 years, we have 13 officers still working for the San Diego Police Department. Come June 30, 2009, five of those 13 will be gone, leaving 8 of us.
Over the years the City and POA negotiated increases to pay and benefits. I served on the POA in the late 80's and early 90's. I then foolishly entered the arena again in 2004. There were years the City offered (actually demanded) to pay a portion of an officer's required retirement contribution in lieu of a pay raise. This allowed the City to provide a perceived pay raise to officers by putting more money in their pocket. The City would take on 1% of an employee's contribution which would only cost the City .60%. The employee actually lost in the deal. The officer's base salary remained stagnant, thus affecting his/her retirement. NOW, the City is refusing to make these payments and NOT providing compensation for the elimination of this promise.
Before those of you reading this begin rants of your own, let me share with you a proposal offered the City on April 18, 2005. Below is an offer submitted to the City from the POA.
- The following is a suggested alternative to the City Proposal submitted April 18, 2005.
July 1, 2005
- Removal of the “Favorite Nations Clause” from labor contract.
- Employee pick up of 3% of Pension contribution currently being paid by city
- Flex money to remain at current level ($5575)
- Employee in DROP to pay City’s 3.05% contribution upon entering the DROP
- Increase “Leave Cap” for employees hired on or after July 1, 1994, from the maximum accumulation of 350 to 500 hours.
- Increase Annual Leave accrual for all employees to:
- One to five year employee; additional .5 hours per pay period
- Five to fifteen year employee; additional 1 hour per pay period
- More than fifteen years; additional 1.5 hours per pay period
December 1, 2005
- Employee picks up additional 3% of employee pension contribution currently being paid by city. (2.7% offset currently being paid by excess funds to run out in or about November 2005)
June 1 2006
- 1.5% pay increase for all employees.
- Employee pick up additional 3% of Pension contribution currently being paid by city.
- Increase Flex Benefit money $500 to $6075.
- No “Cash Pay-out” of Flex Benefit money.
- Set up “Medical Trust” to be used to pay Retiree Medical Expenses.
Medical Trust payments to begin (.5% of salary for employees 1% of salary for city)
January 30, 2007
- Employee pick up additional 1% of Pension contribution currently being paid by city.
May 15, 2007
- Pay increase for all employees of 1%.
- Increase Educational Incentive Pay 2%.
July 1, 2007
- Flex Benefits increase of $500 per employee
- Pay increase of 1.5% for all employees
January 15, 2008
- Pay increase of 1.5% for all employees
Back in 2005, the POA offered the ENTIRE retirement offset being paid by the City on behalf of officers to be taken back by the officer (10% total) and over a three year period receive a 5.5% pay increase. The pay increases coming after the first year and back loaded to year three to "help" the City meet it's goal of lowering the UAAL associated with the Employees Retirement System. The problem created by elected officials who failed to make payments on behalf of the employees, diverted money away from the Retirement System to pet projects and at the same time made promises that could not be kept. In 2005 the POA pushed and prodded the City to join in setting up a Retiree Medical Trust for officers. We saw the need to begin a funding mechanism apart from the City. It was clear the City was not in a position to meet its obligations to retirees and having been removed from Social Security in 1982 with the promise of lifetime retiree medical insurance, paid by the City, the POA wanted to ensure its members were taken care of. (The removal from Social Security is a story itself).
Fast forward to 2009. The City demands officers begin to pay an additional 4.1% of the retirement contribution without an increase in compensation. The City also demands a 1.5% reduction in salary as well. The City adds insult to injury by freezing retiree medical insurance at 2008 levels (knowing of a 13% increase) and unilaterally changing the entry age for entering the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) from 50 years of age to 55 years of age. Effectively eliminating the plan from viable use. The City then sues the POA in an effort to ELIMINATE the DROP.
I am sure some of you reading this are thinking I am a selfish, cry baby who does not get it. To the contrary. I get it. I understand the jealousy and consternation some have with the benefits of City Employees. I also get that the reason most of you have these feelings is you do not understand nor have you been provided accurate information related to the pay and benefits of those who serve you. I find it frustrating to read over and over total lies about my pay and benefits. The exaggeration of benefits and the cost to taxpayers. The misinformation provided to already angry taxpayers paint a picture of greedy, thieving, lazy, selfish employees. Then top it off by having a mayor who continues the lies, exaggerations and misinformation presented to the public and who is left holding the bag of excrement?