Category Archives: Labor Contracts

Posts relating to the labor contract information available on this site

Labor Contract Updates


Today I posted a revised version of the Labor Contracts page.  The updates are several:

  • MAPG-Executive Collective Bargaining Agreement from 2012
  • UAW Local 412, Unit 41 Supervisory Employees Collective Bargaining Agreement from 2012
  • MOU for MAPG-Executive group from today, 05-FEB-2013
  • MOU for UAW Local 412 Unit 41 Supervisory Employees from today.

Needless to say, I have fallen behind in updating the contracts available on this page, and this latest entry is part of an effort to catch up and get all of the contract information current again.

Today’s MOUs are interesting in that they resolve a few issues that the city has had:

  • What to do about the recent appointment of Christopher Martin to the post of Fire Chief  in light of the fact that he was already enrolled in the DROP program at the time he was hired.
  • What to do about supervisory employee retirements in general as these high-value employees head for the exits (i.e. retirement) in order to lock in their retirement benefits, thus leaving a “brain drain” in operation at the very top.

The simple fact of the matter is that the city is very concerned about employee turn-over at the very top of its various departments.   Several of the people managing various departments within the city are technically old enough to retire, yet are young enough to continue working for many years to come.  They are incentivized to retire, however, due to shorter-term Collective Bargaining Agreements, a general reduction in the retirement benefits the city has been and will be making available in the future, and the ongoing elimination of the DROP programs from the CBAs.

To combat this, the city has decided it will rehire retired supervisory employees at a reduced rate of pay and with no benefits other than non-accruing vacation days.   Of course, these employees don’t NEED other benefits, since they are already enjoying their retirement benefits, including retiree health care, a pension, etc.

Actually, this is not a new idea.  Some time ago, the city decided it would hire retirees in as part-timers.  The major change in today’s MOUs is that it is now deciding to hire in retirees on a full time basis.

In some respects, this is smart thinking on the part of the city: try to retain the leadership we currently have for as long as possible.  It helps to ensure continuity of operations, and it puts people to work who would otherwise be retired, it helps to avoid elevating or hiring new people who might not work out in their new job, and it is generally a conservative approach to retain management when things seem to be going well.

On the other side of the coin, this doesn’t really eliminate employee incentives to retire.  The result is that they are now given the incentive to retire, collect a full pension and retirement health care benefits and approximately 65-70% of their former wages doing the same job they were doing before.   It’s an expensive way to keep people around, regardless of how much money the city claims it will be saving.  

(Perhaps on paper, the city is saving money in this approach.  Of course, “on paper” the DROP program was supposedly revenue-neutral “actuarially” and you’ll notice that it is now being, er, dropped with each new CBA.)

Would the city need to go through this exercise if it had a better “farm system” for bringing people up through the ranks and grooming them for departmental management positions?

Perhaps as time goes on, the elimination of the DROP program as CBAs are renewed will reduce the high “youthful retirement rate” the city is currently experiencing.  Certainly we want to keep our newly appointed Fire Chief for as long as we are able: the revolving door in the Chief’s office needs to stop spinning.

Another interesting thing I find in the Memorandums of Understanding is the fact that the Union membership of rehired part-time employees is enshrined in the documents, even though these employees will not be technically subject to every provision in the CBAs they are party to, given that they’re already retired.   I’m not sure what the reasoning is behind that, but I suspect it might have something to do with the ‘Right to Work’ laws about to take effect.  I would appreciate your comments on that and other possibilities that simply aren’t coming to mind for me right now.

As always, my goal with the Labor Contracts page is to offer up a highly reliable source of information sans editorial comment (which I reserve for the main blog entries such as this one.)   I would appreciate any heads up with regard to missing CBAs, MOUs or other documentation if you should happen to notice them missing.

Incidentally, I am still waiting to see the revised Police contract, post-P.A. 312 arbitration.

Police Officer Gross Pay Statistics


A recent FOIA request by a local attorney has resulted in the release of 2011’s gross pay information for all sworn Sterling Heights Police Officers and Fire Fighters.  I have received a copy of the data to do with it what I will, and naturally I feel that it is of interest to readers of this blog.  In this post I am concentrating on the information regarding the Police Department; Fire Department information will come in another post.

Confidentiality: I am treating the information regarding individuals as confidential.  I have no interest in revealing who makes what, as I think it is divisive and contrary to the goal of having a smooth running police department.  As residents, however, it is important to understand what drives the costs of policing our community.  Having a first rate police department requires having well paid individuals working there, which is something most people probably realize.   However, a look at some of the statistics may reveal the reasons why the city is now headed toward a vote on a public safety millage sometime in 2013.

About the numbers: these are gross pay statistics.  The numbers from the FOIA document show what each officer earned before taxes, and not what their take-home pay was.  The gross wage figures also include overtime and any longevity pay, shift premiums, etc.  Although the numbers may seem high depending on your own salary, remember that in the big picture these men and women are not becoming wealthy, as I can attest with my own personal salary being somewhere in the middle of these numbers.  I think it’s also important to remember that everyone on the force operates with a higher risk of losing their life on the job than most people, something that weighs on their minds each and every day.

Gross Pay Overall

Overall, police officers in Sterling Heights earn a solid income.  No sworn police officer grossed less than $60,000 last year.  The top paid officers earned slightly in excess of $140,000.

I’ve broken down the gross pay numbers into what I’ll call “$10K segments”.  2 Officers earned over $140,000.  7 earned between $130,000 and $140,000.  10 earned between $120K and $130K.  22 earned between $110K and $120K, and another 22 earned between $100,000 and $110,000.  46 (the largest segment) earned between $90,000 and $100,000.  30 earned between $80,000 and $90,000, 12 earned between $70,000 and $80,000, and 3 earned between $60,000 and $70,000.  Nobody earned less than $60,000, or in excess of $150,000.

In summary, the average gross pay for 2011 was $99,396.68.  The median pay was $96,333.26.  Officers with female first names averaged $92,769.29, while male officers averaged $100,165.07 (two officer first names are gender-ambiguous).  The average Command (supervisory) Officer grossed approximately $120,100.58, while the average Police (regular cop) Officer gross pay was around $93,307.30.

Pay vs. Rank

There are several different ranks within the department.  In addition, there are “rank modifiers” which impact officer pay according to how much post-secondary education he or she has.  An officer who has a Masters degree from an accredited university theoretically can earn more than one with an Associate degree.  However, the actual gross numbers don’t always reflect the idea of higher educational achievement equaling higher pay, probably due to overtime, longevity pay, and shift premiums.  Here is the breakdown for 2011 of average gross pay numbers:

I’m terming the bottom three categories as ‘undefined’ with respect to averages.  With just one officer in each category, posting an ‘average pay’ is the equivalent of posting the pay of three individuals, contrary to my goal of not revealing any individual salaries.  If you must know, file a FOIA of your own.

A graphical look at this data shows there are a couple of “sweet spots” where the pay is higher than intuition might suggest.  Being a Sergeant with an Associate’s degree seems to work out a little better than being a Sergeant with a Bachelor’s degree.    Similarly, Lieutenants seemingly out-earn Lieutenants with Bachelor degrees.  Strangely, Patrol Officers with Associate degrees do better than those either with a Bachelor degree or with no degree at all.

Labor Cost By Division

It was possible to deduce which department division each employee worked for in the FOIA data.  Here is a look at the labor cost of each division:

The lion’s share of the work effort and pay goes to the Operations Division, which is the one that puts cars on the road in response to 911 calls, performs regular patrols, and performs traffic enforcement.  Note that these numbers do not include dispatch (except for the command officer), as they are not sworn Police Officers.

A graphical look at the data above reveals the difference in scale between the divisions.  By far, the largest amount of money goes to pay the officers who are out in public.

Male Officers vs. Female Officers

In general, the female officers are better educated than the males, but there are far fewer of them, and none have risen above the rank of Sergeant.  The most senior officers are all male, and the highest educational achievements go to males with two holding Masters degrees.

Reflecting the same trends found in virtually every industry, on average the males out-earn the females by a significant amount.  Remember this is skewed heavily by the much smaller number of females, and the lower rank achievements of females overall.

Conclusions

The numbers speak for themselves, and everyone will have a slightly different subjective interpretation of how well police officers are paid in Sterling Heights compared to their own salary.  I don’t have accurate comparative data to other cities, nor do I have strong opinions on what a police officer’s salary should be.  After quite a bit of reflection, I personally wouldn’t do the job for what the best paid officer makes given the risks, and I probably am poorly suited for the job anyway.

Male vs. female pay and rank data is interesting but not conclusive.  There are a myriad of factors which impact individual achievements, and the fact that very few female police officers are on the job skews the numbers heavily.

There is a substantial amount of money expended in Sterling Heights on these men and women’s paychecks, and that amount of money is becoming a problem for the city’s budget.  The contracts for both the command officers as well as the regular patrol officers are currently up in the air, and it looks like both will be decided by an arbitrator under Public Act 312.  These numbers could look vastly different for the 2012 calendar year, or they could remain roughly the same.  If they do remain roughly the same, you can count on a new tax measure being placed on the 2013 ballot.

In my meetings with Sterling Heights Police, I have never failed to be impressed by the professionalism and kindness they have shown me.  I’m sure there are good and bad, and I’m sure that my opinion would be different if I wasn’t law abiding!  That said, whether market economics dictates their salaries are too high or too low, or just about right, I wouldn’t begrudge any of them their paycheck.  Whether the city can afford those paychecks, however, remains to be seen.

2012 Memo of Understanding: UAW Unit 40 Local 412


Today I posted a copy of the Memorandum of Understanding between UAW Unit 40 Local 412 and the city which guarantees no work week reductions for that bargaining unit through June 30, 2013.

Needless to say, the reduction of the work week that is supposed to take place this summer is being used as leverage to encourage concessions from the various bargaining units operating in the city.  Mark Vanderpool and most of council is calling the announced reductions a “default position” or a “fallback position”, and I am calling them a “negotiating tactic” — a term which I stand behind despite the (sometimes angry) denial of everyone on council and Mr. Vanderpool himself.

Whatever you call it, the pattern the city seeks is to exchange eliminating the shortened work week for concessions.  If you read the various MOUs that this bargaining unit in particular has agreed to over the past several years, you will clearly see that this year’s concessions are more extensive than in years previous.   From the standpoint of the residents and the city, this is necessary and welcome, and I for one appreciate the willingness on the part of the bargaining unit to help keep the city from going under.

I want to remain on record that I deplore the approach that was taken by the city to get these concessions.  I personally do not believe in threatening people in the way the city has done.  But in the end, I suppose, my objections plus $2.50 will get you a bus ride (and in Metro Detroit, a bus ride with a very limited set of destinations at that.)

Our City’s Rotten Tactics


On January 17, I spoke before council regarding the 20% reduction in worker pay/four-day work week the City Administration has advised will take place this summer unless suitable savings are found via labor negotiations.

As I said before council, I realize that as a conservative, my support for labor on this issue will seem out of character, but my personal experience of having worked as an employee for my entire career allows me to completely empathize with them over what is happening.

My own pay was cut from 2008-2011, first by 5%, then an additional 10% on top of that, and it was extremely painful for my family.   As a conservative, I know full well that we cannot afford the cost of an overly-large government.  As an employee and a human being, I also know full well what being abused by an employer is like.

A 20% pay cut is abuse.

These are scare tactics

The announcement is nothing more than a dirty, rotten, lousy labor negotiating tactic, and I think it speaks poorly about the character of those who are negotiating with the unions.  Essentially, the city administration is using scare tactics–despite their protestations to the contrary. Instead of negotiating in good faith using reason, facts, and presenting real options to labor, they’ve decided to pursue the nuclear option.  Scare tactics are the mark of poor negotiators.

Behind the scenes, City Administration is simultaneously jockeying the sentiments of the residents to accept another tax increase.  The thinking is that if they can’t scare the unions away from their position, the back-up plan is to scare the residents into thinking their roads won’t be plowed, their parks will close, and the library will be shut down even more than it is now.  This is unacceptable.

Public Safety cannot be held sacrosanct

In exempting public safety workers from the announced cuts, the administration is willfully creating animosity between non-emergency workers and public safety workers, which is a lousy thing to do.

Cutting back on everything but public safety may appease some segments of the population and the public safety workers themselves, but nobody who has had a look at the city’s finances believes for a second that this city’s financial ship will be righted without reasonable and tolerable cuts to public safety.

The necessary reductions are going to be painful.  The problem is a public safety department that is unsustainable in its current form and size.

Reasonable and Tolerable cuts to public safety implies reducing overtime, elimination of multi-departmental responses to minor emergencies, considering outsourcing of EMT runs altogether and maintaining department sizes that are scaled to actual needs, rather than worst-case potential needs.

In the meantime, the administration needs to move immediately to restore the relationship between public safety and the other workers.

What about Mark Vanderpool?

Mark Vanderpool’s much-ballyhooed financial plan for the city, the one that was designed to enable a town of 129,000 people to weather this incredible economic storm boiled down to this: hoping the housing market would recover in 2010/11. Plain and simple, he was banking on the idea that things were going to recover last year.  I think it was painfully obvious several years ago this would never happen.

It is tempting to say City Council should hold Mark Vanderpool accountable and fire him.  Someone needs to be held accountable. The most logical choice might appear at first glance to be the guy who runs the daily operations of the city.

I’m just not sure that firing him would resolve the problem.  I am working under the assumption that someone with Mr. Vanderpool’s level of responsibility has to delegate the preparation of the budget and financial planning.  In my opinion, he should demand accountability from the people who put together the wishful thinking masquerading as a city’s financial plan, and terminate them.

If Mr. Vanderpool cannot deliver a smoothly running, fiscally sound city in by January 2013, he too needs to go.  He should be obliged to deliver to the city a financial plan that assumes the economy will continue to worsen, rather than get better, and has contingencies prepared to ensure the sustainability of future budgets regardless of the housing market.

This is a tall order, I know.  I think City Council should challenge him to deliver on the above, because I still think he’s capable of it.  That’s why Mark Vanderpool makes the big bucks: ultimately, he has to deliver.  It is City Council’s job to make sure he does.

The Labor Issues Need to be Resolved

Cops without contracts, Command Officers suing the city, Dispatchers afraid for their jobs, and the entire non-emergency workforce cut back to a 30-hour week?  This recipe for disaster is the product of incompetence.

We would have gotten better results without the $50,000 attorney had Mr. Vanderpool, Mr. Baker, and Mayor Notte sat down at the table across from the union representatives themselves.  As usual, City Administration spends the money, the council rubber-stamps the request and the residents get to take their chances.

Speaking as a resident who wants the streets plowed, broken water mains fixed, criminals caught and the library open: this labor issue needs to get resolved.  Quickly.

Look at it this way: GM, Ford and Chrysler negotiated multi-year contracts with the UAW involving a lot more money than the city budget.  Literally hundreds of millions of dollars were at stake..  All three sets of negotiations were completed in a couple of months.

The Police Officers of Michigan negotiations have lasted the better part of a year.

Negotiations should be wrapped up by the time the city budget has to be signed into law.  As a resident, I think we have the right to demand it.  I think the city’s employees deserve it.  And I think City Council needs to make it happen.

Sterling Heights Cuts Work Week to 32 Hours


Today the City of Sterling Heights announced it will be cutting back non-emergency personnel to a 32-hour work week beginning July 1, 2012 in response to an “unprecedented 7th year of housing decline, resulting in an additional $5 million in lost property tax revenue…and an additional $2.5 million loss in personal property tax revenue due to pending state legislation.”  City Hall will go to a 9AM-4PM weekday schedule.

This reduction equates to a 20% reduction in salary for employees, and a 20% reduction in non-emergency service hours for residents.

Full details have yet to be announced with regard to reductions at other city buildings such as the library and the nature center.  However, the city indicates that more cuts will be needed, although they may not be permanent should alternative cost saving measures be identified and implemented.

What’s The Next Move?

The following is only speculation about what the administration might do next.  These are not things that I support or want, but they seem very possible given the track record so far.

The surest way out of this financial trouble is to raise taxes substantially and cut public safety expenditures.  The problem with this is that raising taxes beyond a very small amount requires a vote by the residents since the city is very near to it’s so-called ‘Headlee cap’.  Cutting public safety will be similarly unpopular and will no doubt damage the city’s currently stellar reputation for public services.  Barring some type of miracle, however, those are the options left with some chance of success.

Other local communities have recently voted to raise taxes, which proves it is possible to do so even during hard economic times.  Given this, I would expect that a significant increase will be put onto the ballot as soon as practical.

The Command Officers Association has already been cut back to 37.5 hour work-weeks in a move by the City Administration that has yet to have its day in court. This demonstrates that public safety is far from being immune to reductions in Sterling Heights.  With the POAM contract negotiations dead in the water and the rumors flying of an outsourced 911 Dispatch operation, I think we may see significant cuts to the police department.  I have no inside information on what form they might take, but I would guess that the city will act to cut back on overtime and any equipment expenditures that cannot be funded from drug forfeiture proceeds.  There will likely be significant head count reductions: from all indications, it seems very likely that the Police Dispatchers have got very good reason to be concerned for their jobs.  In fact, look for opportunities to outsource or share functions with another community to be pursued very seriously in the coming months.

The other part of public safety, the Fire Department, will not be immune from cuts either.  I think it is possible that one of the stations could be shuttered, at least temporarily, along with lay-offs of affected personnel.  If there is any overlap in the reasonable response area between two of the stations, one of them could be shut down.  Given the financial stress the city is under, I also would guess that the transport issue is dead, since start-up costs would be significant.

Virtually anything you get from the city today for ‘free’ will likely have some fee attached, with the exception of the library, which will have its hours further cut, possibly drastically.

The Consequences

The announced cuts will surely bring a resident outcry, as well as a number of filed grievances from the affected labor unions.  I anticipate that City Council meetings are about to become extremely contentious as the various interests take their cases public.  There will undoubtedly be several different arbitration proceedings as all of this is adjudicated.

The cut-back in hours will undoubtedly result in a poorer level of service at City Hall; there are only so many things you can do when 20% of your working time has been chopped off.

Who is to blame?

I believe that ultimately the blame for the city’s financial problems lies with the people charged with budgeting the city’s expenditures and those who approve the budgets.

There is little doubt that City Manager Vanderpool and Budget Director Baker have failed to foresee the shortfalls and adjust accordingly.  To a certain extent, their hands have been tied by the labor contracts, but there have been plenty of opportunities to reduce discretionary expenditures that have gotten away.  (Anyone remember the $86,000 playscape?)

However, an even larger share of the blame must be placed on the members of City Council who voted to approve the last two budgets: Mayor Notte, Deanna Koski, Joseph Romano, Maria Schmidt and Barbara Ziarko. These folks were supposed to be the watchdogs for the residents and city workers alike, and they have, for reasons which are hard to imagine, failed to exercise their oversight obligations.  Labor has given these folks strong support up until now.  I somehow doubt that will continue.

If I met a genie with a crystal ball, my question would be this: Will City Council exercise its prerogative and fire the City Manager?

Only time will tell.

Command Officer’s Association Lawsuit … and the real issue


Background

Last summer, the Police Command Officer’s Association (COA) refused to agree to mid-contract concessions with the city last year, citing the city’s actions in negotiating with their brother union, the Police Officers Association of Michigan (POA) as a violation of the “terms of good faith concession agreements made with the POA.”  In response, the city unilaterally acted to cut COA labor costs by reducing the work week to 37.5 hours.

The reduction in work hours resulted in the POA filing a union grievance against the city, which in turn resulted in both parties bringing their case before an arbitrator. 1969 PA 312 dictates binding arbitration as a remedy in the case of Police and Fire labor grievances, where the workers are specifically barred from striking by law.

The Arbitrator’s Decision and COA Reaction

In this case the arbitrator, who as specified by P.A. 312, was agreed upon by both parties before hearing the case, decided to side with the city and upheld the work week reduction.

According to a story published December 28th by the Advisor and Source newspapers, the COA, dissatisfied with the arbitrator’s ruling, has now filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging “that the city breached the existing collective bargaining agreement by reducing members’ workweeks from 40 hours to 37.5 hours, and that the arbitrator assigned to resolve the grievance filed by the Command Officers Association improperly ‘used economic factors to invalidate the expressed terms of the parties’ CBA.'”

Quoting further from the Advisor and Source article, “Our officers were upset that the arbitrator took into consideration factors that were outside the contract,” said Martha Champine, assistant general counsel for the Police Officers Association of Michigan. “We felt the arbitrator, under the law, had exceeded his authority.” (emphasis added)

The Law

Act 312 §9 specifically states the things the arbitrator is allowed to consider in a case like this.  One of the chief things to be taken under consideration is the city’s ability to pay.  Another key consideration is a comparison of the wages for the public employees vs. similar communities in the state.

In my opinion, the suit is without merit.  First, Sterling Heights Police remain the highest-paid police in the state.  Any comparison of our cops’ pay vs similar cities in the state does not come out favorably for the COA.  Second, the city is clearly under financial stress.  The 2011/12 budget spends down the “rainy day fund” to dangerously low levels as it is, and there is already talk of another tax increase to finance road repairs.  Could the city pay the command officers for a full 40-hour work week?  Likely it could, but doing so without some other reductions elsewhere would compromise the city’s financial health.

The Real Issue

Everyone seems to have forgotten that the regular officers of the Sterling Heights Police are currently operating under the terms of an expired contract, and have been since the end of June 2011.  From what I have heard, our city’s high-priced labor attorney is stonewalling: no negotiations are taking place.  Since public employees are forbidden to strike under the law, it would seem that the City Administration is actively seeking to continue the stalemate.

Put another way, for now the cops don’t have a contract, and the city seems to be happy to have it that way.

It comes down to fairness

I am no big proponent of labor unions, but on the other hand I want to see the cops treated fairly.  My sole problem with the unions, in this case, is that I believe they too often use their leverage against the citizens’ best interest.  That is not taking place right now; things have tilted too far the other way.  I’m for fairness for all of the parties involved.

We’ve paid a labor attorney $50,000, ostensibly to negotiate a fair deal for us and the police.  Instead, we have a lawsuit from the COA, a POA without a contract, a Dispatch operation that is in fear of losing jobs via consolidation with the county, and a city of 129,000 which cannot be getting the same level of police service they deserve.

The men and women on the police force no doubt feel like their employer is out to screw them, and they’re only human.  When you get pulled over for a traffic stop, do you want to be confronted by somebody who’s angry about their job?  How about when you need them to protect your life in a home invasion?  Do you want them holding back because they aren’t being treated fairly?

This situation is shameful, and I lay the blame at the feet of the City Administration. Simply put, they have abdicated their responsibility to properly administrate the city, leaving it in the hands of an attorney. Although I think our police department is overpaid and that the residents deserve some economy in these tough times, I expect the City Administration to do its job.

Is the labor attorney behaving in a self-serving manner by goading the officers into actions that will no doubt result in higher fees for his firm?  If the Administration was doing its job, this wouldn’t be a question anyone could ask.

What City Council Should Do

Ultimately, the responsibility for what is going on here gets pinned on the elected officials.  Joe Romano can rant and rave all he likes about the waste of time and money the lawsuit represents, but it is within Council’s power to pass a resolution ordering the City Manager to get the labor contracts negotiated expeditiously.  Since they are more than willing to pass resolutions on things outside their purview (re: ‘smart meters’), how about a resolution ordering both parties back to the bargaining table?

 

Home Values Going Down, Police Contract at Stand-Still


Zillow.com is reporting that Sterling Heights home values have continued their downward trend, with an 8.2% reduction in value year-over-year, and a 3.8% drop vs. the previous quarter.

What this means to you is that your house is likely worth less than it was a year ago, despite the fact that we’ve technically been out of the ‘Great Recession’ for over a year.  With this drop in values, the city’s tax revenues will continue to decrease, forcing the city to make even tougher choices regarding the 2012/13  budget.

In the meantime, sources tell me that the POAM contract is not being negotiated.  The city’s labor attorney has advised the city to allow the matter to go to arbitration; they initially demanded a 20% wage cut across the board which was rejected by the police union.

Remember: the city’s fiscal strategy to survive the downturn is to extract large enough concessions from the labor unions to make up for the dwindling revenues.  My take?  If they’re refusing to negotiate and are willing to let an arbitrator decide for both parties what the terms of the contract will be, they’re ceding control to an outside party and hoping for the best.  It doesn’t seem like a sound strategy to me.

Even if it works, is stonewalling the type of thing that happens to good labor relationships?

Contract Negotiation Satire


A satirical look at this summer’s contract negotiations…

Police Command Officers: trust destroyed!


According to a claim made by the Sterling Heights Command Officers Association in a letter to City Council, the tactics City Administration have employed during this year’s contract renegotiation have resulted in the trust between the Police Department and the City Administration being destroyed. For this reason, the Command Officers Association is refusing to accept wage or benefit concessions for the 2011-12 fiscal year. This should cause grave concern to anyone who is reading this.

When the working relationship between a city’s Police Department and City Hall is adversarial, as apparently is the case here, the residents suffer. Police Officers have a duty to serve and protect, and when they do not trust their employer, a pall is cast upon the level of service they provide. Response times can become longer. Attitudes towards the public they interact with can become surly. Officer safety, always a prime concern, can begin to take precedence over duty itself. In short, the department begins to suffer the same type of attitude problems that are commonplace in hopeless situations such as the City of Detroit.

From my outside-looking-in position, I cannot assess the situation completely and assign any sort of blame to one side or the other. I cannot tell if the Police unions are over-reacting to the demands made by an Administration caught in an untenable financial situation, or if the problem stems from an administration which has elected to play hardball for no justifiable reason. This is a byproduct of both the closed door negotiation process and a failure on the part of the local media to cover these negotiations adequately. Our local branch of the ‘fourth estate’ is letting us down.

As a concerned resident and tax paying citizen, I have the expectation that the most highly paid Police Officers in the state will work well with what must be one of the most highly paid City Administrations in the state. I expect labor issues to be a non-issue for residents, and that the cost of keeping our Police on the job will be in line with that of other communities of our size. Further, I would hope that the party or parties responsible for this break-down will be removed from the negotiation process so that it may proceed and forward progress will be made.

When I see a letter to City Council from a Police union complaining that the city is not negotiating in good faith, I fear for the well being of my city. I sincerely hope that reassurance from both the Police and the City Administration will be forthcoming immediately that negotiations have resumed in good faith.

Quick Update: July 2011


This is just a quick update to point out that the new MOU for the MAPE Technical/Office Employees Union has been posted to the Labor Contracts page. Sterling Heights has been having a relatively quiet summer politically, but in the background negotiations on new Police contracts are continuing. When the details of the new contract begin to come to light, I expect that the political scene will become considerably more busy. Of course, there is also a general election this summer, with several candidates worthy of consideration. Watch this space for updates when they are warranted, and enjoy the rest of your summer!