The president of Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police says members of his own union, including his immediate predecessor, conspired to rig arbitrations on two previous union contracts.
FOP President Mike Shields offered no evidence to back up his claim, but said the fix was in on the most recent Chicago Police Sergeant’s contract as well. He outlined his allegations, in a letter to Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.
“Each party was in cahoots,” Shields said in an interview at his near West Side office. “The predecessors of mine in the FOP, the city lawyers, and the arbitrator, all agreed on a deal. Then they staged an arbitration which wasn’t even real. And the arbitrator comes back with findings that were already agreed upon by both sides.”
Shields’ predecessor, Mark Donahue, who currently serves as the FOP’s legislative director, did not reply to queries seeking comment. But critics allege Shields leveled the allegations in an effort to shore up flagging support for his own re-election as union president, even going so far as to name one of his potential rivals as being among the co-conspirators. He insisted that was not the case, and felt he had to speak out, lest the sergeant’s settlement become the template for a bad contract which would effect 17,000 FOP members and retirees.
“I don’t care about the election,” he said. “I don’t care about winning or losing. It’s about this deal. I feel two and two just aren’t adding up to four.”
Reached by telephone, James Franczk, the city’s negotiator on all three of the contracts in question called Shields’ allegations “outrageous”.
“All three of these arbitrations were done in strict compliance with the law, with the contract, and with the highest standards of labor ethics,” he said. “This is a tremendous insult to all of the parties involved in the process.”
Shields insisted he came forward with the allegations, because of a clause in the sergeants’ settlement which calls for a new 2% contribution to health care costs.
“This arbitration by the sergeants will be used against us,” he said. “It will cause our members to have to pay a 2% premium on their retiree health care when currently it is a premium free benefit.”
The union scheduled a full membership meeting Tuesday night, where challengers for the presidency were expected to make themselves known.