Friday, January 15, 2010

Let’s Get a Fact Straight

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

The future is not all that bright at City Hall, things are darkening and though it may seem placid, it might only be a calm before the storm.

There is an ongoing debate about whether the new City Administration is bound by the economic conditions contained in the public employee labor contracts.

There is noise out there, the sounds of grumbling and chest thumping; the sounds of uninformed rhetoric of the masses who threaten to destroy any civil discussion.

Both sides are making noise.

Former Mayor Jim Baca has been making noise on his blog Only In New Mexico, about how:
Those fat contracts Marty Chavez gave out in hopes of getting support from the police and firemen's unions are really going to cause problems.
Baca wrote on his May 29, 2009 post during the recent mayoral campaign when talking about the largest city employee union giving then Mayor Martin Chávez their endorsement:
What surprises me is that while Marty has bent over backwards giving the Police and Fire Unions exhorbinant (sic) raises over the last seven years that AFSCME rolled over so easily after getting scraps.
Baca wrote April 24, 2009:
Its a miracle! As election season approaches Mayor Marty Chavez has found enough money in the budget to give non police and fire employees a raise this summer. Don't you just love miracles? Actually, I am happy they will get a raise but this manipulation is almost comical.
From his perspective as a former mayor, who was saddled by a huge economic mess left to him by the first Chávez administration, he has some understanding of the problem. Baca had only one term of Chávez' funny economic budgetary math magic and the national economic picture then, was not so bleak as it is now. He spent almost three years digging out of the financial mess.

Baca never considered the cops to be under control as he envisioned, and promised in his campaign rhetoric. He still rails about the police union.

During the 2009 mayoral race coverage, hosted by blogger Joe Monahan, right, with: Baca, State Legislators, Rep, Larry Larrañaga, R, Sen. Eric G. Griego, D, both from Bernalillo County, and former State Democratic Party Chairman John Wertheim, at KANW 89.1 FM's Election Night broadcast, I attempted to say something nice about Baca’s willingness to talk to the police union, when he was trying to get their support for the quarter cent transportation tax.

Baca actually sat down with union leaders, which were then lead by Alex Marentes, left.

The union successfully opposed a quarter percent “Public Safety Tax” a couple of years before and Baca was very concerned that cops might also oppose the transportation tax. He never understood that the police officer’s weren’t opposed to a tax increase, just not as a “Public Safety Tax”; we didn’t want to be blamed for it. The police union's argument was simply that there are certain government functions, including public safety, which must always be funded and not by way of some special tax; we called it, “first, last and always.”

Baca still lashed out at the cops as being very problematic for mayors. He's right, for the wrong reasons.

Several city employee groups negotiated, what are being considered, lucrative multi-year contracts, especially the police and fire unions. It causes consternation for mayors' administrations and city councillors who would much rather not have to deal with the collective bargaining process altogether.

There are some, especially that cowardly “Anonymous,” writing on the backside or comment section of the Eye on Albuquerque blog, suggesting a strike by police and fire employees.
Bottom line Ray (Chief of Police Schultz) and Darren (Director of Public Safety White) screw with city contracts and we will walk.
So what’s wrong with this picture?

City of Albuquerque Code of Ordinances
Article 2: Labor - 
Management Relations
§ 3-2-18 Consistency With City Budget Ordinance.
Any contract between the city and an employee organization, which contains provisions that result in expenditures greater than the amount, appropriated for wages and benefits in an adopted city budget for the initial fiscal year of the contract or which contains a multi-year commitment shall require the review and approval by the City Council. In order for any contract to be approved by the City Council, the City Council must approve the economic components of the contract through an executive communication and adopt a resolution providing an appropriation or deappropriation or both to cover the cost of the contract. All such contracts shall contain re-opening language for economic items.
The Albuquerque Police Officer’s Association has a contract effective from July 1, 2008 until June 30, 2011. The contract states: This agreement’s compensation commitments for the second and third fiscal years shall be continent upon the approval of the City Council as set forth in Section 3-2-18 of the Labor Management Relations Ordinance.
The Albuquerque Area Fire Fighters Union has a contract effective from July 1, 2008 until June 30, 2011. The contract states:

1.3.6 The City and the Union agree to follow the Labor Management Relations Ordinance Section 3-2-18.

What this means is that if there are insufficient funds available to pay for contractual raises, then the City Council may alter the budget accordingly during the second and subsequent years of long-term contracts. The ordinance requires economic re-openers in multi year contracts.

My Take
During the tough economic times the City is facing, now projected by this administration as up to a $54 million shortfall, increasing expenditures through payrolls makes no sense.

As a former union president and leader, I was always aware that the vast majority of officers had a keen awareness of their place in the broader sense of their community and their specific role within the governmental structure.

Employees who have had their wages lag behind their contemporaries, in and out of public service, are reluctant to give up on promised increases.

However, employees who are treated in a fair manner, the same as every other city worker, taking equivalent hits to their pocketbooks, will go along with such reductions. It means the administration and all workers across the board have equal cuts.

Once an agreement is passed that every city worker will share in the pain equally, the workers will do their part to weather the storm.

This is APOA President Officer Joey Sigala, left, with Vice President Dan Champine, standing before a recent City Council meeting declaring union support for the leadership of police in the new administration of Mayor Richard “R.J.” Berry. Their support of the appointment of former Sheriff Darren White, upper, second from right, as a Deputy Administrative Officer position, more commonly referred to as Chief Public Safety Officer, and the continuation of Ray Schultz as chief of police was in stark contrast to the strong endorsement made by the union for former Mayor Chávez. The endorsement was fraught with internal union politics.

The re-openers will be tough, the negotiations hard fought, but there will have to be concession on both sides. The unions will take reduced increases or even frozen raises for the promise that when the economic picture improves those previously negotiated raises will be restored. That’s a promise the administration will have to keep. Saved employee pay during the fiscal crisis may not be viewed as ongoing after the recovery. The administration and council should not view such savings in the future as found money to be used for other purposes.

When the freeze is over, it must be over for everyone.

1 comment:

Blogengeezer said...

Over the many years living in ABQ, I have been aquainted with several ABQ officers. Some worked their way through the ranks, starting as jailer, to Academy (one of them, twice :>) to Detective and Management. Every time 'pay plan' was on the board, the threat from officers, to "Go To LA" (or elsewhere) was mentioned. Few did "Go To LA". To say it compared favorably with ABQ, was never mentioned. Some returned, many went elsewhere after the 'interesting' LA total experience. Grass that is Greener, is that way for a reason. Usually fertilizer..