I find it hard to believe that we are already in the month of November. It seems like it was just yesterday that Jim and I assumed our leadership roles at the POA. From the onset we have been thrust into one battle after another against a City administration that is hell bent on blaming us for all of their financial woes and misplaced spending priorities. Despite these continuing and relentless attacks, we still have much for which to be thankful.
In January we were able to successfully keep the City from taking over control of the Police and Fire Retirement Board. The City attempted to change the composition of the retirement board in such a way that it would have given City Hall control over setting the actuarial rate of return on our contribution investments. This would, in turn, have led to a substantial increase in our biweekly retirement contributions. It also would have allowed them to stack the board with more of their representatives than ours giving them an unfair advantage on investment strategies. After a tough political battle we, along with Local 230 and the Police and Fire Retirees, were able to get in place a retirement board composition (4, 4,1) that was fair and balanced to both sides.
Before the ink was dry on the retirement board issue, we began contract negotiations with the City. At the very first negotiation session it became apparent that the City was intent on rolling back our wages and benefits. This was the beginning of a grueling six month process. Our negotiation team worked hard to preserve as many of the benefits our forefathers had worked so hard to attain as possible. When the smoke cleared, we were able to bring back to you, the membership, a contract with less than a 4% total compensation reduction and save the jobs of 71 of our newest members. We were somewhat fortunate considering the fact that most of the other city bargaining groups were forced to take a 10% total cut in their compensation.
Shortly after the City Council publicly praised our membership for being reasonable, acting responsibly and willing to work with them, a majority of the council acted in the middle of the night to take away a mechanism that has provided us a level playing field in our ability to fairly negotiate wages, benefits and working conditions. By placing Measures V and W on the November ballot the council showed our membership that no good deed goes unpunished. However, they are now finding that they have awoken a sleeping giant--uniting us more than they could have possibly imagined. We will not know the outcome of these two ballot measures until November 3, 2010. Regardless of the outcome, we should be grateful to the City for helping to solidify our membership.
Thanksgiving will quickly be upon us. Despite all the recent negative developments that have impacted to our membership, we still have so much for which to be thankful. No one can take away our family, our friends, our health, our dignity or the fact that we have one of the most difficult jobs in this country. Each of us is blessed.
I say thank you to all of our members for your support during the past nine months. I thank the Board of Directors for the sacrifices they make for our members. I thank the POA staff (John Tennant, Joanne Segovia, Maryanne Babiarz, Betty Souza, John Hayden and Kerry Hillis) for all of their hard work and effort. I thank Chaplains Dave Bridgen and Jim Becknel for their dedication and commitment to the men and women of our association. I thank the men and women in the armed services that protect us abroad from those who wish to harm our way of life.
Lastly and most importantly, be safe out there.