Go Home Alive – Here Endeth the Lesson

sean-connery-as-jim-malone-in-the-untouchables

Not since 9/11 has our police profession been so laden with stress and uncertainty. Officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge were killed in incidents that could easily have occurred here in Montgomery County, Maryland. Understandably, we are all paying more attention – to everything. That level of hyper-vigilance is stressful and tiring, but it is exactly what we should be doing. Sean Connery’s character Paul Malone said it best when he told Elliot Ness at the end of the day: “You just fulfilled the first rule of law enforcement: make sure when your shift is over you go home alive. Here endeth the lesson.”  And that is where the lesson ends.

Today we live and work in as dangerous an environment for policing as has ever existed. More and more individuals are willing to act in anger against police officers. As police officers, the possibility of being ambushed while running a routine call is not foreign to us. We know all too well that any call could be a set up. We train for it. Still, a very vocal segment of the public doesn’t understand that fact. Their minds are closed to the history of the hundreds of police officers who, while serving the community, have suffered a violent death in premeditated attacks in the United States.

These are difficult times for us, and more so for our families. Our families watch us leave for work as the television broadcasts images of officers perishing at the hands of angry gunmen. These days, when you are not at home, every siren sounds louder and clearer than ever before to those who wait for your return. Your commitment to duty is your family’s commitment to duty, and right now it weighs on them as much as it does on you.

Despite the anger in a disproportionately vocal segment of the population, know that you are loved, and not just by your families. You are loved by the vast majority of the people you serve. You are recognized as the wall between law and chaos. Evidenced by the heroic actions of your brothers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, you are the heroes in this community. Heroes who run towards danger to ensure everyone else gets home alive. The public knows you will continue to show up for work because it is what you do. Despite the disputes between police officers and the Montgomery County Government, despite the attacks on your wages and benefits in the editorial pages of local and national newspapers, you have shown up to work everyday of every year without exception.

The current spate of unjustified and cowardly violence against police will eventually subside and we will return to a more peaceful working environment. We may bury more sister and brother officers before it is over. Until then remember that you have been trained and equipped to handle these incidents. Trust your training, and follow Paul Malone’s first rule: go home alive. Do your job, but don’t expose yourself to unnecessary risks, or let fellow officers expose themselves. Look out for each other. Protect each other. Us contact and cover at all times. There is no such thing as a routine call right now. Keep abreast of what is going on nationwide so that you have the information you need to assess danger.

Make extra time for your families. They stress over you. Hug your kids, your spouse and your parents more often.  Take time off to do things at home. Use your leave, it is part of your compensation and you have a right to it. Eat well, sleep and get your exercise in so you are prepared to respond when the need arises.

Remember you have resources. The FOP is here to help you and your family in any way that we can. If you, or your family, needs assistance or needs to speak to someone about what is going on, you have benefits through the employee assistance program (EAP) 1-855-350-1750 or www.GuidanceResources.com, and through your health insurance. Even taking the time to talk with one another about what is going on will help. We are all experiencing the same thing though we may feel it in our own unique way. We remain a family, and need to behave like a family, now more than ever. Be the heroes that you are, but be safe doing it.

Hearing Sets-Back Floreen’s Bill

Public Hearing on Floreen Bill 24-16 IMG_7220

Public Hearing on Floreen Bill 24-16 draw Labor’s ire.

Council President Nancy Floreen’s bill to silence employees’ voice in labor disputes was dealt a set-back on Tuesday night, July 12, at a scheduled public hearing.

It is a scene we have seen all too often in recent years: the Montgomery County Council meeting room packed with angry public employees wearing an array of colored t-shirts as the nine elected sit on their dais looking down on the crowd. This has been an annual event for years whenever the Council voted on employee contracts during the budget process. Because the County Council as legislature has the ultimate authority over the County’s purse strings, the decision as to what receives funding in any given year rests on them. It is what they get paid for. For years, their choices have drawn the anger of voters and public employees alike. A term-limit referendum now looms as the current Council continues to conduct the taxpayers’ business.

This past Tuesday night, however, was not about the budget. It was a public hearing on Bill 24-16. For an as yet unexplained reason, Council President Nancy Floreen, who has vocalized aspirations to be County Executive, introduced a bill that would turn a nearly 40-year process of collective bargaining on its end. The only justification she has provided for her proposed changes is to increase transparency. The bill is little more than an amalgamation of anti-union recommendations from right wing groups like ALEC, a Koch brother’s funded organizations.

Last Tuesday night, Floreen may have suffered a set-back. The voices raised at the Council public hearing were overwhelmingly against the bill. Included among them were the representatives of employee organizations affected by the bill. But the bill drew the ire of many other labor organizations who have been cautiously watching the Council, and Floreen, since the Council voted to limit police officers’ “effects bargaining” rights in 2011, which are rights common in organized workplaces.

Most notably, Tefere Gebre, the Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO, spoke before the Council on Tuesday, scolding them for even considering these changes while identifying themselves with progressive political ideals. Gebre spoke for the AFL-CIO which represents 1.4 million American union workers.

Details of the event can be found at the following blog: http://robertdyer.blogspot.com/2016/07/moco-employees-labor-officials-denounce.html

Since the hearing there have been some changes. District 2 Councilmember Craig Rice, who had originally signed on to the bill as a co-sponsor, has asked to have his name removed from the bill. Although the bill has been scheduled to go before the Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, action on the bill has been put off until September, after the Council returns from recess.

Members of the FOP attended the public hearing and joined with the other county employees to pressure the Council with vocal dissatisfaction. So far this has been successful in giving the Council pause for second thought. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THE THREAT OF CHANGE IS GONE! The bill remains out there and as long as it is out there it is a threat.

Police Contract Arbitration at Risk

 

We approach the anniversary of the signing of the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to find our own workplace rights, and FOP contract, under attack from the Montgomery County Council. Nationwide attacks like this have been too frequent lately. Unlike the battles over collective bargaining that have raged in the Midwest, here in Montgomery County democrats are driving the attack against unions.

On June 17, 2016, Montgomery County Council President Nancy Floreen introduced Expedited Bill 24-16. This bill amends the collective bargaining laws of all three Montgomery County Government employee unions – FOP, MCGEO and IAFF. The bill as introduced could do little more to tilt the contract arbitration process in favor of the County during term negotiations.

In the decades leading up to the passage of the 1935 NLRA, scores of labor disputes in the United States turned violent with deaths numbering in the hundreds over the years. A system of collective bargaining was sought to provide a means of dealing with workplace conflict in a non-violent manner. The NLRA, also known as the Wagner Act, paved the way for collective bargaining for workers in the United States. The key to collective bargaining was, and remains, that employers and employees deal with each other on equal terms on a level playing field and that the resolution of disputes is perceived as fair.

In 1980, by overwhelming two-to-one vote on a referendum, the residents of Montgomery County gave collective bargaining with binding arbitration to their police officers. In 1982, the Police Labor Relations Article (PLRA) was enacted drawing its provisions from the NLRA. Since providing collective bargaining to police officers in 1982, there have been no job actions by police in Montgomery County. The law brought labor peace because it brought a level playing field and a resolution process perceived as fair.

In the last decade the Montgomery County Council made some tough budgetary decisions. They said “no” to the public and to public employees while saying “yes” to themselves. The fallout for councilmembers’ actions has come home to roost in the form of a pending term limit referendum that may remove up to five councilmembers, many of whom are now considering running for County Executive.

We are watching as the bill proceeds through the Council, and working with other unions and allied political groups to stop the bill.  There is nothing of value in this bill for police officers or other County employees. We will likely have to take action, as we have in the past, to defeat this shameless attack on our organizations, and collective bargaining itself. We can defeat this bill and preserve a level playing field for resolving conflict under the law.

Every provision of the collective bargaining agreement – which defines the terms of employment including pay, benefits and hours – is subject to arbitration. If the resolution process unfairly favors the employer, police officers have a great deal to lose.

PLEASE WATCH FOR NOTIFICATIONS FROM THE FOP ABOUT UPCOMING EVENTS. PLEASE PARTICIPATE WHEN REQUESTED.

As always, thank you for your support.

Bill 24-16 breakdown

FROM: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/COUNCIL/Resources/Files/bill/2016/Packets/20160621_3A.pdf

EXISTNG LAW:

The law currently provides that neither the PLRA nor any agreement arising under the PLRA shall impair management rights of the County Executive.  [33-80(b)]

PROPOSED CHANGE:

All “elements of the employment relationship” not expressly identified as a mandatory subject of bargaining in the PLRA are not subject to bargaining.

 

Under the law today the County Executive appoints the Permanent Umpire who is then confirmed by the County Council for a five-year term. At the end of any five-year term, the FOP can prevent Umpire from reappointment by filing an objection. [33-77(b)]

 

Executive may reappoint any incumbent Permanent Umpire without condition.

 

Anyone appointed to be the Permanent Umpire must have experience in the field of labor relations. [33-77(d)]

 

Anyone with experience in conducting adjudicatory hearings may be appointed as a Permanent Umpire. This would include retired judges, family law magistrates (masters) and MVA administrative judges.

 

Contract Arbitrator attempts mediation before Arbitration

 

Separate Mediator comes in before Arbitration

 

Contract Arbitration by an agreed upon Individual

 

3 Person Arbitration Panel – County chooses 2 of them

 

Under the current law there are 10 enumerated management rights:

(1) To determine the overall budget and mission of the employer and any agency of county government;

(2) To maintain and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of operations;

(3) To determine the services to be rendered and the operations to be performed;

(4) To determine the overall organizational structure, methods, processes, means, job classifications or personnel by which operations are to be conducted and the location of facilities;

(5) To direct or supervise employees;

(6) To hire, select and establish the standards governing promotion of employees and to classify positions;

(7) To relieve employees from duties because of lack of work or funds, or under conditions when the employer determines continued work would be inefficient or nonproductive;

(8) To make and enforce rules and regulations not inconsistent with this law or a collective bargaining agreement;

(9) To take actions to carry out the mission of government in situations of emergency;

(10) To transfer, assign and schedule employees.

[33-80(b)]

Remove one of the current rights (#9) and add the following additional management Rights:

(10) To determine the size, grades, and composition of the workforce;

(11) To set the standards of productivity and technology;

(12) To establish employee performance standards and evaluate employees, except that evaluation procedures shall be a subject for bargaining;

(13) To make and implement systems for awarding outstanding service increments, extraordinary performance awards, and other merit awards;

(14) To introduce new or improved technology, research, development, and services;

(15) To control and regulate the use of machinery, equipment, and other property and facilities of the employer, subject to section (a)(6) of this section;

(16) To maintain internal security standards;

(17) To create, alter, combine, contract out or abolish any job classification, department, operation, unit, or other division or service, provided that no contracting of work which will displace employees may be undertaken by the employer unless ninety (90) days prior to signing the contract, or such other date of notice as agreed by parties, written notice has been given to the certified representative;

(18) To issue and enforce rules, policies, and regulations necessary to carry out these and all other managerial functions which are not inconsistent with this article, federal or State law, or the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

 

Negotiations for a new contract begin on November 1. [33-80(d)] Negotiations will begin on October 15

 

Negotiation proposals are kept within negotiations and between the parties

 

The County Executive must publicly publish the FOP’s initial proposals on a website within 10 days of the Executive’s initial counter-proposal.

[33-80(d)]

 

If the County Executive and the FOP cannot come to an agreement and an impasse is declared, resolution of the impasse must occur by February 1. [33-80(d)] An additional two weeks is added to the time for resolving an impasse. Resolution must be completed by February 15.
The FOP and the County Executive mutually agree upon a neutral arbitrator called an impasse neutral who must be available to resolve any impasse between January 20 and February 1. [33-81(a)] The FOP and the County Executive no longer agree on an impasse neutral. Instead, the parties mutually agree upon a mediator who must be available to resolve any impasse between January 20 and February 15. [33-81(a)]
The impasse neutral attempts to mediate a settlement. [33-81(b)(2)] The mediator chosen by the FOP and the County Executive attempts to mediate a settlement.
If the impasse neutral determines that a settlement is not possible, the impasse neutral accepts final offers of the parties and may conduct a hearing if necessary. [33-81(b)(3)] If the mediator determines that a settlement is not possible the mediator certifies the impasse and an arbitration panel must be selected. The arbitration panel requires each party to submit a complete package proposal. The arbitration panel may hold a hearing if necessary. [33-81(b)(3)]
Contract arbitration hearings are not open to the public. [33-81(b)(4)] Any hearing conducted by the arbitration panel must be open to the public. [33-81(b)(4)]
The impasse neutral must select the more reasonable offer of the two final offers no later than February 1.

The arbitration panel must select the more reasonable offer of the two final offers no later than February 15.

COUNTY COUNCIL AND POLICE PAY

Montgomery County police officers collectively bargain over pay, hours and working conditions under the Montgomery County Code. Matters subject to bargaining, the timeline for bargaining, and the means of resolving an impasse are all laid out in the law. An agreement reached under our law is binding on the FOP and the County Executive. It can be enforced by either party on the other. But the County Council still has a say.

The County Council must vote on legislation required to implement a provision of the contract.  An agreement to change our retirement benefits would require a change in the retirement law. The change would be submitted as a bill, debated, and voted on by all councilmembers.

The Council also has the sole power to appropriate money. So it decides whether to fund or not to fund any provision of the contract requiring an allocation of money. Our compensation comes in the form of wages and benefits which must be budgeted and funded in any fiscal year.

The Council must indicate on or before May 1 whether they intend to fund the compensation for the upcoming budget year. This allows a period to renegotiate the agreement so it can be passed by the Council.

This year we negotiated a 1% pay increase and the restoration of a 3.5% increment for officers missing increments.

On April 26, 2016, the Council unanimously voted to reject funding our restored 3.5% increment. We met with the County Executive and agreed to amend the contract to address the Council’s concerns. It was sent back to the Council. The Council will take it up again on Monday, May 16, 2016.

The Council should honor our agreement. It was reached through give and take by both parties. Years ago, the Council took unprecedented action in withholding funding for service increments. Since that time some of us have been working for up to 7% less than we were promised when hired. Meanwhile, the Council has continued to spend, including spending on their own raises. It’s time to restore the pay promise to police officers.

You can help by actively supporting your Contract. Watch for information for the date of the Council vote. Come to the Council meeting for the vote and let them see us – the families affected by the vote. Bring your family. Call and email the councilmembers and ask your family, friends and neighbors to do the same. The County Council must hear that the community supports us.  The County Council must hear from US that our pay is important to us.  They must know we need it and that we are willing to fight for it. It is YOUR money. YOU have to stand up for it.