Judge Orders County To Reduce Premiums For Police Retirees November 13th, 2013 BALTIMORE COUNTY, MD – A court has ordered Baltimore County to reduce the health insurance premiums it charges hundreds of retired police officers. Baltimore County Circuit Judge Michael … Continue reading
BALTIMORE (AP) – Baltimore officials will appeal a federal judge’s ruling that part of their package of pension reforms to for police officers and firefighters is unconstitutional. Lawyers for the city have filed a notice of appeal with the 4th … Continue reading
December 06, 2012
When Montgomery County unilaterally decided to discontinue a long-standing practice of allowing police shop stewards-in-training to attend disciplinary interrogations for training purposes, the police union filed a grievance with an arbitrator. The county filed a motion to dismiss the grievance, maintaining that arbitration of the issue was preempted by state law.
What happened. In its grievance, the Fraternal Order of Police, Montgomery County Lodge 35, Inc., (FOP) alleged that the county had violated the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the county and union when it unilaterally stopped a 20-year-old practice of allowing shop stewards-in-training to attend disciplinary interrogations conducted by the police department’s Internal Affairs Division.
The union maintained that the shop stewards-in-training did not participate in such interrogations. Instead, they attended the interrogations to observe experienced shop stewards represent law enforcement officers so that they could become effective representatives themselves in future interrogations. The county, meanwhile, said its decision to terminate the practice stemmed from the fact that “the FOP was permitting veteran shop stewards to ‘tag team’ the interrogators” with stewards-in-training.
Under the CBA, the training of shop stewards is not specifically mentioned. However, the union argued that the previous policy amounted to a “past practice,” which, as a result, was incorporated into the CBA and preserved under its “Maintenance of Standards/Retention of Benefits and Conditions” provision.
The county argued that Maryland’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBR) governs the presence of individuals during an interrogation and that, with two exceptions, the statute preempts collective bargaining and arbitration on matters relating to the “subject and material” of the LEOBR. The union countered that its grievance involved the union’s right to train its employees and had “nothing to do with the LEOBR” and did “not deal with the procedural guarantees regarding the right of a police officer to representation at an interrogation.”
Agreeing with the union, the arbitrator concluded that the union’s grievance was not preempted by the LEOBR and denied the county’s motion to dismiss. However, the arbitrator stopped short of deciding whether the county was bound to continue letting shop stewards-in-training attend disciplinary interrogations.
The circuit court affirmed the arbitrator’s decision and granted summary judgment on behalf of the union. The county appealed.
What the court said. The Court of Appeals affirmed, noting that the LEOBR “is a comprehensive statute that provides procedural protections and an exclusive remedy to police officers facing disciplinary action.”
Under the circumstances of this case, “the LEOBR does not preempt collective bargaining and subsequent arbitration of the underlying grievance [i.e., whether the “past practice” of allowing shop stewards-in-training to attend disciplinary interrogations must continue]. The grievance does not implicate the LEOBR because the union is asserting its own right to train shop stewards during interrogations, and further, there is no allegation that the practice increases, impinges upon, or otherwise affects the substantive rights of an officer.”
The court said, “The ultimate question whether the shop steward training grievance amounts to a ‘past practice’ under the CBA is an issue reserved for the arbitrator.”Montgomery County, Maryland v. Fraternal Order of Police Montgomery County Lodge 35, Inc., Court of Appeals of Maryland, No. 105 (2012).
Point to remember: Employees in unionized workplaces have the right to have a representative present at an investigatory meeting that the employee reasonably believes might result in discipline. In such workplaces, grievance procedures are regulated by the union contract and are generally formal, rule-based processes. The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) will govern the handling of grievances filed by employees within the bargaining unit. Typically, CBAs contain a provision requiring arbitration of employee grievances.
The amended complaint filed in U.S. District Court seeks to include “a presently unknown number of persons known only at this time as John/Jane Doe’s, who upon information and belief will be revealed during the course of discovery to be the Somerset County Commissioners and/or the County Administrator and personnel specialist.” read more…
As many as 400 retired police department employees could see a reduction in their health insurance costs and be due a refund for charges since 2007.
A state Court of Appeals ruling Monday effectively affirmed arbitration and a Baltimore County Circuit Court decision on the case that dates back to 2007. [A copy of the court rulling is attached to this article.]
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 4, which represents county police officers, filed a grievance five years ago after the county increased the costs of health insurance for employees who retired between Feb. 1, 1992 and June 30, 2007.
On July 1, 2007, the county changed its share of retiree health insurance costs from an 85-15 split with retirees to an 84-16 percentage.
The union argued that its contract with the county locked in an individual’s share of the insurance costs based on what was in place at the time of retirement until the employee became eligible for Medicare.
The county argued that it was under no obligation to take the union’s grievance to arbitration because the contract year-to-year had expired.
The judges ruled that the language in the agreement was broad and did not exclude taking grievances from an expired agreement to arbitration.
“We agree with the Circuit Court’s decision to leave undisturbed the arbitrator’s findings in this case,” the judges wrote in its 37-page ruling. “The fact that the [contract] has expired does not mean the County had no duty to arbitrate disputes arising out of that [contract]. A dispute may be arbitrable after the expiration of the underlying agreement, if the agreement contained a broad arbitration clause and the rights that are the subject of the dispute accrued or vested during the life of the agreement.”
Cole Weston, president of the union, said the ruling will decrease health insurance costs for as many as 400 retirees represented by the police union.
“The county has to restore the subsidy for people who retired between Feb. 1, 1992 and June 30, 2007 to what it was at the time they retired—that’s phase one,” Weston said. “Phase two is that the county will have to refund the difference between that rate and what the county has been charging since July 1, 2007.
A county spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
On Nov. 6, Montgomery County voters will decide whether the police chief or the head of the police union should determine public-safety policy.
The voter initiative, which will appear on the ballot as Question B, reads, “Shall the Act to modify the scope of collective bargaining with police employees to permit the exercise of certain management rights without first bargaining the effects of those rights on police employees become law?” A vote in favor of Question B eliminates “effects” bargaining.
The story of Question B began in 2011, when the Montgomery County Council unanimously passed legislation to repeal the union head’s power to challenge, then bargain over, basic police-chief directives. Before the reform, police management needed union approval to implement any new policy. Officers could not even be required to establish email accounts, let alone respond to emails from county residents.
The union power over management derived from what is called effects bargaining, a privilege the local police union does not intend to lose. The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) local gathered more than 40,000 signatures — more than enough to put Question B on the ballot.
The Montgomery County police chief of staff, Lt. Dave Anderson, says effects bargaining makes contract negotiations never-ending by giving unions a “second bite at the apple.” What the FOP cannot gain from the county in contract negotiations it can bargain for unceasingly in this manner. No other police force in Maryland enjoys this privilege, nor does any other public-employee union in Montgomery County.
A pro-Question B website lists 15 police department policies the FOP held up with effects-bargaining claims. A few examples of postponed police policy:
“The distribution of critical police equipment … the redeployment of officers to crime hot spots … and even the revised policy on ‘Use of Force’ — important to protecting the public and officers alike — which was sent to the Police Union for its ‘approval’ on June 27, 2008.”
Under effects bargaining, police officers still don’t have to sign their time cards. It took months for the chief of police to gain the right to require police officers to have county email accounts — or to check their email.
Voters should keep in mind the problems with allowing the FOP or any public-sector union official to possess overreaching power over the government employer’s decision-making process. Union bosses’ allegiance lies with their members and not the public. This hinders government’s ability to provide essential services in a reliable fashion.
Trey Kovacs is a labor policy analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
This November, voters in Montgomery County, Maryland, will decide whether the police chief or union boss should determine public safety policy.
The voter initiative, which will appear on the ballot as Question B, reads, “Shall the Act to modify the scope of collective bargaining with police employees to permit the exercise of certain management rights without first bargaining the effects of those rights on police employees become law?” A vote in favor of Question B eliminates effects bargaining.
Question B’s origins began in 2011, when the all-Democratic County Council unanimously passed legislation to repeal the union’s power to challenge, then bargain, over basic police chief directives. Before the reform, police department management needed union approval to implement any new policy. Even asking officers to check their email became a contentious ordeal. The union power over management derived from what is called “effects” bargaining, a privilege the local police union does not intend to lose.
To maintain the status quo or preserve effects bargaining for the county’s police, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) local gathered more than 40,000 signatures – more than enough to put Question B on the ballot.
Current Montgomery County police chief of staff Lt. Dave Anderson says effects bargaining makes contract negotiations never-ending by giving unions a “second bite at the apple.” What FOP cannot gain from the county in contract negotiations it can bargain for later in this manner.
A pro-Question B website lists 15 police department policies the FOP held up with effects bargaining claims. A few examples of postponed police policy:
“The distribution of critical police equipment, the redeployment of officers to crime hot spots, and even the revised policy on “Use of Force” – important to protecting the public and officers alike – which was sent to the Police Union for its “approval” on June 27, 2008.
Under effects bargaining, police officers still don’t have to sign their time cards. The chief of police could not even require police officers to have County email accounts – or to check their email. It took months to negotiate that.”
Voters should keep in mind the problems with allowing FOP or any public-sector union official to possess overreaching power over their government employer’s decision-making process. Union bosses’ allegiance lies solely with their members and not the public. When negotiating contracts or bargaining the effects of management decisions, the sole objective for labor representatives is to negotiate the most lucrative contracts with optimal working conditions for their members they can. This conflict of interest hinders governments ability to provide essential services in a reliable fashion.
With our various levels of government grappling with revenues falling short of expenses, there is a long overdue focus being put on the state of government labor. The recent Chicago teachers strike should be seen as an example of the excesses of government unions. Reporting lumps all unionization into one category, and there is no distinction expressed between private and public unions. Public sector unions are different from private unions in that they have no “Free Market” competition to keep their demands in line. In addition, the cozy relationship between the Democratic Party and public unions create a conflict of interest for elected officials.
In the private sector there are market restraints on what a union can demand. If UPS (union) workers demand too much in compensation as to render their company non-competitive with FedEx (non-union), they will lose business. This puts a “real world” restraint on what these unions can demand in terms of compensation and benefits. Corporations can go out of business, which obviously would hurt the union employees. GM & Chrysler notwithstanding, this market mechanism works well. Government has no competition, and is in effect a monopoly in terms of the services that it supplies. Therefore, there is no similar control placed upon public sector union demands. If government workers go on strike, where else can consumers go to get their drivers licenses?
With the lack of market forces, taxpayers must rely exclusively upon management to say no to costly demands. The managers who are sitting on the other side of the negotiating table are elected officials. There is a political party, however, that is beholden to the very government unions they are supposed to be negotiating with. The Democratic Party receives an overwhelming amount of money in political donations from public sector unions. In fact, their top 4 donors are various government unions. Many candidates go to union sponsored events, and pledge their support for union causes. If a candidate for office received a donation from a corporation, then after being elected, gave a lucrative no-bid contract to that corporation it would be called corruption. How is this situation any different?
Considering most government entities (other than federal) must balance their budgets every year, you would think that politicians would be restricted from offering paybacks to the unions. They can’t give what they don’t have, right? The problem with this argument is that the official has the ability to promise, and get passed into law, retirement and health benefits that will be paid for in the future. This takes away any current budgetary restraint that may exist, and puts us in the situation we find ourselves today all across the nation.
Our country is reaching a tipping point with all of the debts we have built up, and there needs to be a sober national conversation on these problems. Without market forces, and the taxpayer representatives beholden to the unions, what chance do we have? Nobody wants to talk about cutting pay or benefits, but the costs have simply gotten out of hand. The taxes that will need to be levied to support this kind of uncontrollable spending will hit all Americans. This issue is at the core of what kind of country, and opportunities we will pass on to our children.
The Baltimore Fire and Police Retirement System may be once again on the hook for tens of millions in annual payouts that had been cut in a 2010 reform package.
(September 24, 2012) – A federal judge has overturned a key provision of Baltimore’s 2010 pension reform, calling changes to the cost-of-living adjustment “unconstitutional” and not “reasonable and necessary to serve an important public purpose.”
“There was an important public purpose to be served by the restructuring of the Plan so as to restore it to actuarial soundness and sustainability,” Judge Marvin Garbis wrote in his ruling. “Hence, the City’s impairment of Plaintiffs contract rights, including their rights to the Variable Benefit feature, could be Constitutionally valid if ‘reasonable and necessary.’ However, the City did not have total freedom to disregard its contractual obligations altogether.”
The city’s police and fire unions challenged Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s 2010 reforms in court, in the press, and on picket lines in front of City Hall.
To close the Baltimore Fire and Police Retirement System’s $121 million deficit, the city council had passed legislation increasing the years of service required of new hires for pension eligibility, fixing the annual cost-of-living adjustments at 1% and 2% for current and future retirees, hiking employees contributions from 6% of pay to 10%, and calculating benefits based on members’ average salary over the last three years, not 18 months. The mayor’s ordinance also stipulated that the City of Baltimore boost its contribution by about $20 million year-on-year.
Mercer consultants estimated that this package of reforms would reduce unfunded liabilities from $1.28 billion to $1.16 billion, despite adjusting the assumed rate of return from 8.25% down to 8%. Post-overhaul, Mercer calculated, Baltimore’s police and fire pension fund would be 88% funded, up from 84.8%.
In his ruling, Garbis agreed with a reworking of the Baltimore pension system in theory, but concluded that replacing the variable cost-of-living adjustment with a fixed annual increase unfairly impacted young employees.
“While the City was justified in acting to stabilize the actuarial footing of the Plan, the Ordinance scheme was not ‘necessary,’ in the sense that the impairment far more drastically impaired the contractual rights of some Plan members than others while a perfectly evident, more moderate and even-handed course would have served its purposes equally well,” he wrote.
George Nilson, the administration’s solicitor, told the Baltimore Sun that he was “almost certain” the city would appeal to a higher court.