Members of the City Council’s Progressive Reform Caucus Monday joined a growing list of aldermen calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel not to deny rank-and-file police officers an automatic right to a retroactive pay raise in 2013 because of a paper work error.
Eight members of the caucus signed a letter to City Clerk Susan Mendoza asking to become co-sponsors of an Oct. 16 Council resolution calling for the city to honor the terms of the previous contract with the Fraternal Order of Police, which granted an automatic pay raise due in June. The issue is part of a larger battle between the Mayor and FOP President Mike Shields over negotiations for a new contract and Emanuel’s approach to solving the city’s pension crisis.
The resolution was introduced at the Oct. 16 Council meeting by Ald. Mary O’Connor (41), who said police officers in her Northwest Side ward were growing concerned the conflict between Emanuel and Shields would result in their losing much-needed back pay. The eight caucus members signing the letter include aldermen Bob Fioretti (2), Leslie Hairston (5), Roderick Sawyer (6), Toni Foulkes (15), Ricardo Munoz (22), Scott Waguespack (32), Nicholas Sposato (38) and John Arena (45).
For Ald. Fioretti, the issue is one of basic fairness. “This resolution is about making sure we honor our promises to our public employees and first responders,” he said. “We can’t be a city that breaks its word to public employees. We need to support our officers, or any other department of city workers.”
In introducing the resolution, O’Connor told the Sun-Times that “people feel there’s a rift between the mayor and the FOP president and they’re caught in the crossfire… It’s a clerical error made by their representative, but it impacts 10,000 police officers. It has an impact on their livelihood and their families. That would not be fair to the police.”
The issue around pay is part of long series of skirmishes between Emanuel and Shields. Last year, Shields failed to notify the city in time that he intended to terminate the expiring contract and start negotiations on a new agreement, a move seized on by the mayor as an opening to demand new concessions. In September, the Illinois Labor Relations Board dismissed a subsequent unfair labor practices complaint filed against the city.
If the mistake leads to the contract not being honored, it could cost the average police officer anywhere from $1,400 for a back pay raise of two percent to $2,100 if it’s three percent.
O’Connor’s resolution, originally signed by 13 alderman, calls for the city and FOP to negotiate in “good faith” going forward and that any new contract should include any back pay due under the old contract.
Shields, the FOP and others contend similar missed deadlines were ignored for years by the city, and had never been a sticking point in starting new negotiations. This year, however, Mayor seized on the gaffe to demand concessions.
Emanuel’s move is seen by many as a response to Shield’s earlier opposition a proposed four-year contract with police sergeants that included changes to pension and retiree health-care benefits that Emanuel had hoped to use as a model to solve the city’s pension crisis.
Fioretti thinks the issue will continue to gain support. “This resolution went to [the committee on] Workforce Development, and we’ll see if [alderman and committee chair] Pat O’Connor calls it up for a hearing. We hope it will be called up as soon as possible, and I think we’ll see even more Council members signing on soon.”