"Enthusiasm over experience"
Where have we heard that before? My last post seems to have sparked a bit of a fire. Somehow the comments migrated to the SDPOA Board of Directors; name calling; accusation; and finger pointing. Sometimes it's good to let off a little steam and let out frustrations in venues that allow for this type of release. I addressed some of the musings within the comments section of the post, but thought I would take some time and provide a perspective from one who ended up the focus of similar name calling, finger pointing and accusations; some at the hands of current Board members before they were elected.
We live in a politically charged time where frustrations have reached their limits. The constant haranguing by the media, politicians and citizens has taken their toll on the best of us. In 2005, we faced down a city that was blaming its employees for all of the ills of a budget out of balance and a retirement system that was intentionally underfunded. We offered concessions which amounted to giving back the entire "Retirement pick-up" being paid by the city on the employee's behalf. We would be giving back 11% and over a three year period we would get back 9 ½% by way of pay increases and increases to add on pays. The city balked at our proposal and imposed a 3.2% elimination of the retirement pick-up followed by a 1.57% elimination of the same; totaling 4.77%. New hires lost DROP and there were other reductions.
The result was an angry membership and a member who is now a current board member, standing in the crowd during the membership meeting; demanding the board hire a "Professional Negotiator" and for the SDPOA to sue the City. The yelling was loud and angry; accusations of incompetence and ignorance were thrown at the board by members. The board was blamed for the failure to reach agreement. A group of members began to assemble to wage war and began to schedule protests walks and pickets in an attempt to show displeasure with what was happening. The law suits were eventually undertaken after much discussion and argument.
The next year we entered negotiations and again were facing cuts and reductions to benefits. Along comes the suspension of "Comp Time" when the SDPOA refused to allow changes sought by the City to occur. We believed if the changes were allowed to be made Comp time would no longer be a benefit to the employee; only the City. The Chief agreed if the changes were agreed to; there would be little if any hope of comp time going back to the way it was and being a benefit to the employee. For the better part of nine months comp time did not exist as there was no agreement. The membership blamed the board and called for our heads and demanded we "Do something, anything" to get comp time back. We held our ground because we knew what the ramifications would be to agreeing to the changes sought by the City. Ultimately, the Tuesday after the election where three new board members were elected and two of us were voted out of office; the City agreed to re-institute comp time with very minute changes. (Care to connect the dots?)
I had predicted at a dinner held for in-coming and out-going board members shortly after the election; the SDPOA and City would agree to a contract providing a raise to our membership. I predicted a raise of between six and nine percent. I was almost exact in my predications. The board was praised for their success and everyone was happy. The City agreed to increase the money provided for FLEX Benefits for those employees with families and reduced the money for those without dependants. Something we had been trying to accomplish for years. The overall feeling was the contract was OK.
This past year we took three steps backwards with the elimination of any increase to retiree medical benefits; another reduction in salary; another elimination of retirement pick-up; and the City reduced the FLEX Benefit money at the same time premiums were increased. To add insult to injury the City increased the age of entry into DROP to 55. To make matters worse; Fire, MEA and City Attorney's agreed to contracts and received LESS in the way of reductions and did not have the age of entry into DROP changed and had their retiree medical simply frozen for two years.
The SDPOA Board sought relief in the courts to stop the City from making changes to DROP. The jury is still out on the final outcome of this litigation. The SDPOA Board has been praised by some and castigated by others, for the outcome of this year's round of negotiations. Many believe a "Professional" negotiator would have provided a different outcome. Some believe the Board failed to deliver.
I believe the outcome for this year's negotiations were pre-determined. The mayor had an agenda and he was hell bent on fulfilling his plan. The SDPOA is the ONLY labor group who is not bound by PERB (Public Employee Relations Board) and thus cannot file an "Un-Fair" labor practice for the type of treatment and actions used by the mayor during negotiations. The mayor knew if he pulled the same crap with ANY of the other unions he would be facing an unfair with PERB and he would in all likelihood lose. The mayor anticipated the SDPOA would file suit in court to stop the changes to DROP. He was hoping this would be their avenue of action so he could get the issue before the courts.
The SDPOA Board had little impact on the outcome of negotiations, because this year there WAS NO real "Meet and Confer." The City came in and said, "This is what we want; this is what you are going to give us; and we will accept nothing less." Professional negotiator; Teamsters; nor the President of the United States could have changed this year's outcome.
The way we respond to the adversity of these negotiations is how we are judged. The comments in my last BLOG Post hint at the frustration of members. In my first stint on the SDPOA Board in the 1980's I was that young, inexperienced and ENTHUSIASTIC board member who often spoke before I thought (I know, some of you still think I'm that guy) but after years of tasting shoe leather and the dirt collected on the sole of my own shoes, I have learned from those days. We have a board comprised of new board members who are learning the nuances of politics and the art of negotiations. These same new board members make up the Executive Board. They control the vote and direction of the Association. There are four mentors who have experience dealing with negotiations and tough times. The new board needs to listen to these directors and include them in the discussions and decisions being made. They need to ask questions and seek out former board members; talk to union directors of other police associations; as well as PORAC and NAPO members and seek the advice of those who came before them.
The membership is changing; the rules are changing; the world is changing. The board needs to change to keep up. Pointing fingers and throwing insults is not only NOT productive, it leads to dissension. Ranting on a BLOG or Forum is not productive; for either the membership or the Board. Face to face, open and honest communication, is always more productive and professional. If you have a bitch; voice it to your representative on the Board and offer a suggestion for improvement or change. Offer to participate and help out with discussion, planning and implementation of whatever the Board determines is necessary to help prepare for next year in hopes of placing the SDPOA in position to be successful. The nine board members CANNOT do it alone. They need your help and your support. We are all in this together and if one of us fails, we will all fail.