Recently Negotiated MOU's
The City not only wanted “pension reform” but also wanted to reform retiree medical. The negotiating team of Peter Hernandez, John Benjamin, Leon Lopez and Neal Gold brought a well rounded dynamic that ultimately convinced the City to abandon its initial draconian position. The three year deal includes members paying the full 9% of PERS. At the same time, the City will be increasing every level of POST pay (including Basic) by 9% to ensure no loss to current employees. New hires will also be at the new 3 @ 55 plan and will be reduced to the minimum PERS contribution for retiree medical. New hires will also have a new Retiree Health Savings with matching funds by the City and employee going in to the account.. For current employees, a new cafeteria amount of $1,370 with up to 4% increases each year was negotiated. Also, for current employees, a new retiree medical amount of $937 for employee plus one (plus $300 if there is an additional dependant when retiring). The retiree medical also will increase up to 4% each year.
Arcadia POA was up for negotiations this year, following a very good multi-year MOU. Fortunately, the President, John Jurman, utilized the experience of the two members (Mike Hale and Troy Hernandez) that led the prior MOU negotiations, who still maintained good relationships with the City Council. An agreement was made to provide the sought after “pension reform” by having new hires come in at the 3 @ 55 plan and all employees paying the 9% toward PERS. To offset the loss, the City provided a 9% increase in salary. It is important to note, the officers will be paying the 9% toward PERS using the “cost sharing” method approved by PERS that allows the employee to pay part of the employer contribution while the employer still pays the employee contribution. Since Arcadia has the EPMC Benefit (9% as “compensation” for pension purposes) this allows those retiring to not lose the EPMC benefit. Given the 9% salary increase also increases other pays and the overtime rate, the POA members received a benefit while the City achieved its goal of “pension reform.”
Azusa POA following its long tradition of doing well at the bargaining table did not let the bad economy tarnish this trend. Led by its President Terry Smith and Vice President, Peter Hoh, like Covina, Azusa was able to convert the trend of 3@55 for new hires into some positive gains at the table. As part of a five year deal, an added 5% pay step was added for Senior Officers (those with 9 years of service) in year one, impacting nearly one-half of the membership. Years two through four call for a 2.5% increase each year, with year five calling for a 3% final increase. Included in the deal is the continued escalator for medical insurance, currently set at a City contribution of $1,350 along with a $50 increase in the uniform allowance.
As you can see, while times are still tight, there are still cities out there that are stepping up to the plate to prioritize public safety. While it is still not the best climate to be negotiating in, there are still decent deals to be had with the right amount of effort put in by the association as well exemplified by the above police associations.
Covina PA, led by its President, Gregg Peterson and Negotiations Chair, Ric Walczak, was able to take advantage of timing. Seeing the 3 @ 55 trend coming to a few nearby cities and some State agencies (CHP, Cal Fire), Covina PA decided that now would be a good time to get something of value for agreeing with the City to put new hires on the 3 at 55 plan. In exchange, the City agreed to add 3 pay steps of 2.5% each after 7.5, 9.5 and 11.5 years of service respectively.
El Monte POA, led by its President, Brian Glick was able to make a very fair deal for its members. The POA had six months left on the MOU and rather than face open negotiations in December, while the City was still in a bad financial condition, the Association put off a raise that was due of 6% for two years, while extending the MOU until December of 2012. Of significance, the POA was able to get binding arbitration for disciplinary cases put in the MOU. The police chief (who clearly did not want a FAIR disciplinary appeal) fought the POA hard on this but ultimately, the City Council thought it was a fair deal and gave the POA binding arbitration. The Chief now gets to be in the “shared” sacrifice. It is important to note here that El Monte POA had created some very positive PR within the community by two of its board members, Jake Fisher and Ben Lowry, creating a community newsletter that helped garner support of the public and ultimately the votes on the Council.
Upland POA went into negotiations facing an uphill battle. The City was using the League of Cities playbook and maintaining its position that "given the economy" it would not be prudent to provide increases "at this time." A review of the City's finances showed that although they did not want to give their police officers an increase "given the economy," the City had no problem spending money on building new City buildings, including over ten million on a new animal shelter that the City's own study said was not needed.
Led by the outgoing POA President, Marcello Blanco and the incoming President, Jim Potts, the POA decided it was time to take the fight to the public. Given the economy, we of course did not complain to the public about compensation but instead pointed out all the realities that were occurring as a result of the low compensation package. We put an information campaign together to let the public know that many officers had left Upland to go work at other higher paying agencies and as a result, public safety programs were being cut. Gang enforcement, bike patrol, DARE and several other areas the public cares about were all cut as a result of the staffing shortage.
The Upland City Manager was interested in properly compensating the City's police officers but did want to put it off as long as possible when the economy would be in better shape. With the public campaign, the politically astute City Manager decided that it should be done sooner than later and came to the table to make a deal happen. The end result was a three year contract. In year one of the contract, several important no cost items were put into the MOU, including binding arbitration for discipline cases (a great thing if you can get it), purging of personnel files of disciplinary records older than five years, a "960 plan" that allows retirees to come back and work up to 960 hours in a fiscal year and increasing the compensatory time off bank from 80 to 240 hours. In the second year of the contract, a raise of 5.4% is provided and a $30 increase in the monthly allotment for medical insurance is added. In the middle of the third year another 5.4% raise comes with another $30 increase in medical. Finally, at the end of the third year, another $30 increase in medical is provided and a salary survey of the higher paid surrounding agencies will be performed, taking Upland to the average (estimated to be another 3% to 5%). In these "economic times" a pretty solid deal was achieved by Upland POA.
In Maywood, the City finally brought in some high caliber leadership that recognized that if you want to truly have a high quality police department you have to pay for it. Unfortunately for Maywood, they were not lying when they said they could not afford it. Many POA's would give up at this point, but Maywood POA, led by its President, Emil Florez, saw an opportunity and seized it. The police officers were due a long awaited raise of 4% in the second to last year of their contract. The City was asking the POA to give up that raise (they too read the League of Cities playbook) given the "economic times."
City management was convinced that if it was going to make Maywood PD a high caliber agency it had to significantly increase compensation as it was one of the lowest paid in the area. It simply was not in a financial position to do it this year. A deal was hashed out whereby the POA did give up the 4% raise for this year, agreeing that would get a previously agreed raise of 5% next year and added to the contract that in July 2011, Maywood officers' pay would be brought to the average of the surrounding cities. This is expected to be between a 15% and 23% increase in July of 2011. The City saw the economy coming back and was open to giving the officers fair compensation when it could afford it in exchange for the POA helping out the City now. They should add this to the League of Cities playbook as it may help out those cities that are truly hurting for funds right now. Maywood POA turned a bad situation into a golden opportunity.
Bell POA also fought the "economic times" argument at Bell but was still successful in obtaining a huge benefit for its members. Bell POA, led by its President, Jaime Baltazar and POA Board Member, Mark Logan, convinced the City Manager to provide a benefit that most cities are trying to negotiate away, lifetime medical. Since the City did not want to spend money now, given the "economic times," the POA showed that by providing lifetime medical coverage, the City would only have to start paying very little now with a gradual increase over the years that it could plan for. The City agreed. The POA members now have lifetime medical coverage for the employee plus a dependent after 20 years of service in Bell. In addition, it was shown that the City could save money by allowing employees who could obtain medical coverage with a spouse to opt out of the City's coverage. To incentivize such action, an "opt out" benefit was created that provides an employee one-half of the employees medical allotment if he/she waives the City's medical insurance. Given this was only a one-year contract, allowing the POA to return soon for other compensation items, the membership agreed to the good one year package.
Placentia POA took a look at the City's finances prior to commencing negotiations and had the unfortunate realization of the City's bleak financial condition. Despite the City's finances, the Police Association leadership was able to convince the City that it needed to place more priority in retention of its police officers who had recently been a leaving to other agencies. The end result was a three-year contract. The biggest movement came in medical insurance. The POA was successful in having the City move from its traditional private sector model of health insurance to CalPERS for medical. Along with the switch came an increase of over $300.00 per month making the maximum City contribution $1,151.00. The contract provides a salary increase in year one of between 2.5% and 4% depending on the Consumer Price Index for Los Angeles and Orange County. In the second year of the contract an additional increase of between 2.5% and 4% will occur, again depending on CPI.
A team approach was developed to determine the compensation increase for year three. The City will survey the community to determine the viability of a tax revenue increase to fund public safety. If a positive response comes out, the City will place such a measure on the ballot for the voters and of course the Police Officers Association will support the measure. In the event of new revenue being approved by the voters, the officers would receive in the third year of the contract an increase of between 3% and 8% depending on their compensation position in Orange County compared to the other police agencies at this time. Additionally, reopeners in the medical insurance are provided for each year with the City picking up at a minimum one half of any increases in the CalPERS insurance rates.
Garden Grove POA led by its President Jeff Hutchins was very successful, given the current economic climate, in obtaining low and no cost items in a two-year contract. The resulting contract called for a 0% raise in year one with a 2% salary increase in year two of the contract. Medical coverage is to increase a minimum of 5% in year two with a reopener to discuss further increases. The GGPOA was able to increase the cash out of sick time to 75% upon retirement (was at 50%). An additional 10 hour holiday was added along with the ability to sell back vacation hours to the City on an annual basis. Finally two hours per month was added to the sick leave accrual per employee.