The existence of a healthy and politically respected union is fundamental to workplace Peace, Health and Order. Decisions made in collective bargaining and negotiations between employer and unions are more influential today than ever before. The role of union leadership is to play an essential role in efficient communication between its members and the municipality. But in the last decade or so, law enforcement unions have lost their way in the fundamental function and culture of labor unions by confusing political philosophies with the overall mission of a labor union and the interest of its members.
Law Enforcement unions and Fraternal organizations have historically voted against their interest even after candidates made known publicly that their political agenda was against the fiber of labor and labor rights.
Historically, the Republican Party has always supported law enforcement, so they thought. For the last 40 Years, Republicans have quietly plotted to lower union enrollment and attack Collective Bargaining rights.
To destroy collective bargaining is to destroy the right of a union member to any resolution of a labor dispute. For workers like police and firefighters, failure to resolve disputes is very dangerous, it could put an officer in harm’s way and a threat to the overall public safety of our communities. The Republican goal is to eliminate collective bargaining weaken unions and ultimately weaken the middle class.
In 2011, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and state Republicans passed Act 10, which reduced collective bargaining and cut the pay of public sector employees. Walker set the blueprint for Republicans to dismantle the power of labor unions on a National stage.
In Iowa, cops and firefighters voted overwhelmingly for Republicans in Iowa and had come to the grim reality that Republicans are anti-union. Iowa Republican state legislation splits public workers into two groups, one that’s “public safety workers,” and one that isn’t. This would be the first process to strip away nearly all collective bargaining rights from most public employees, but keep most of it for police and firefighters, who are politically more difficult to go after.
But here was the problem. Some of the state sheriff’s deputies wouldn’t get classified as “public safety” because there’s more Shor Correction Officers and clerks in the bargaining unit. The Republican bill only classifies workers as “public safety” employees if a majority of workers in a bargaining unit is made up of police or firefighters and have left out the Correctional Officers or Sheriffs.
The Iowa Republican Bill even removed the provisions for “just cause” firings. This means public workers could get the fired at any time, with no recourse of action to save their job.
The Iowa State Republicans voted and passed a bill that dismantled the state’s 40-year-old collective bargaining law, dramatically weakening the power of public sector labor unions and leaving some 185,000 public workers unable to bargain over benefits, healthcare, vacations, retirement, and nearly all workplace issues outside of wages.
In the 2012 Presidential Election, Republican Presidential Candidate, Mitt Romney was quoted as saying that there is a need for less Police and Firemen. The Republican policies nationally and locally have attacked collective bargaining, rights and benefits of Police and Firemen. These jobs historically have been held by white middle-class families. Police unions have been silent, confused and in denial that the party that always supported them has now betrayed them in support of big business and Corporate America.
Closer to home, when our Republican County Executive Robert Astorino was only a candidate looking for support for his Herculean battle against incumbent Democrat County Executive Andy Spano, many county workers gave their support to his candidacy. Many county workers assisted in his campaign, believing that he would bring about a positive change in our county government, fairly settle contract disputes, and improve our working conditions.
Unfortunately, in pure political form, former County Executive Astorino forgot his promises on the campaign trail. He flipped flopped against those who were in the public sector that voted for him and fell into the usual Republican political rhetoric; lower taxes on the backs on the working class public sector workers that make this county government function.
The last two terms of former Westchester County Executive, Robert Astorino, he made good on his promise to Corporate Westchester by lowering salaries and benefits of county workers. These same county workers whom many can’t even afford to live in the county they work for had their wages benefits lowered all for tax breaks to Corporate Westchester.
Mr. Astorino wrote in an Op-Ed printed by the New York Post on January 16, 2012, and in the Journal News on Jan 30, 2012, to take on the task of criticizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other legislative leaders for not to pursuing any reform this year concerning the Triborough Amendment.
The Triborough Amendment mandates that event of lack of a contract, the terms of the previous contract remain in place until a new contract is agreed upon by labor and management or the government municipality. Mr. Astorino uses this to support his theory that the Triborough Amendment has put a burden on county finances because raises continue after the labor contract expired which is false. Astorino’s Administration’s goal was to break unions contractually.
The first contract he passed with Westchester COBA, enables the first crack in setting the standard for broken unions in Westchester. The Westchester COBA leadership agreed to separate healthcare cost of hires after 2012. The hires would pay six percent more in premium contributions, a total of 20 percent and pay the same when retired, while those officers employed before 2012 would pay 14 percent and not pay at all when retired. They also agreed to lower the top pay of all hires after 2012.
Even after many union rights and salaries lost, Astorino’s public attack on the Triborough Amendment in the two terms of the Astorino administration. County Law Enforcement Unions stood faithfully with Astorino in last year’s election. With the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement with the Westchester County Correction Officers, Benevolent Association signed and passed by the County Government.
Astorino last accomplishment in true Gov. Scott Walker fashion that he split one union in two contractually by giving one group of active members a higher raise than the other. Correction Officer has settled for a two-tier raise system contractually that set a dangerous precedent for labor unions all across the state of New York. Former County Executive Robert Astorino within eight years he contractually broke one of the largest law enforcement unions in Westchester County
National Law Enforcement organizations like the Fraternal Order of Police and local police unions have stood behind Donald Trump for the election to be President. His claim to be a “Law and Order” President as it relates to rights and benefits to law Enforcement is only Republican rhetoric, and Blue Lives symbolism and no substance in actual legislation to protect the rights and benefits of law enforcement throughout the nation.
The Trump administration are strong supporters of whats called “right-to-work” laws, state laws that disallow unions from requiring membership dues, thus undermining their ability to survive with no financing. With these laws in place, the public sector worker will have no voice in the workplace. this is a serious threat to union members and non-union workers alike.
In many states, public workers, especially law enforcement are the backbone of middle-class living. According to conservative economist Stephen Moore, who advised Trump’s campaign on tax policy. He told Bloomberg Politics, “that going after state and local taxes will weaken public unions.”
Conservatives say they hope the change will mean lower state taxes and smaller governments. The removal of the state and local tax break could hurt the public sector. The bill is designed to weaken the Democratic constituency that work for local and state governments and that rely on taxpayers for jobs and pensions. But the reality is, it’s also weakening the majority Republican member law enforcement unions throughout the nation who rely on strong labor laws for the protection of workplace safety.
To our detriment, Law Enforcement unions have never considered themselves labor union leaders that are part of the labor movement in its entirety, and now the chickens have come home to roost in our contract negotiations and our collective bargaining rights. If these law enforcement union presidents don’t step out of the box, realign themselves with the national labor movement and struggle and honestly address labor issues and support candidate that truly have labor interest in mind; they will have failed its members and the greater public and the working middle class.
Damon has been a guest commentator on New York radio stations WBLS (107.5 FM), WLIB (1190 am) WRKS (98.7 FM), WBAI (99.5 FM) and Westchester's WVOX (1460 am). Mr. Jones has appeared on local television broadcasts including Westchester News 12 “News Makers” and Public Television “Winbrook Pride. You can now hear Damon every Wednesday at 830 AM on WFAS 1230 AM, Morning with Bob Marone Show