FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
I work for a smaller department of 18 full-time guys. I ve attempted to unionize a couple of times. The guys get talked out of it by brass who promise them everything under the sun. Problem is, the promises fall short.
Our pay isn t that bad, but we keep taking it in the shorts with the benefits. We also have no protection. We are at-will employees, and the brass never lets us forget it. They threaten that they can let us go just because. They say we have progressive discipline, but they start with suspensions if you screw up. What happened to verbal or written warnings first? I thought that s what progressive meant!
How do you talk these clowns into a union? We need some sort of protection, and need to secure the benefits we have as well as look at some sort of retirement insurance plan. The young guys think they ll be doing this forever and don t look far enough down the road to plan ahead.
Let me recap so I know we re about to blow up the same door. You work for a small department where all the employees are at will. The brass is anti-union, and they got their leadership training from Pol Pot if someone goes against them, they get crushed. The rest of the department is either too scared or too stupid to move with you toward a union. If that s about right, get your dancing shoes on and pack a lunch, brother, because you ll be doing some tap dancing that won t conclude any time soon.
I ve been to a barrel full of union meetings, union board meetings, political action committee meetings, union conferences and about every other sort of gathering even remotely related to police union business. Ol Bullethead learned a lot doing it, and I recommend every cop do their part and take a turn on the union board.
One thing I learned is that anyone who runs for a political office is a dirty, lying scumbag. It s the nature of the beast, so even the people who don t start out that way end up that way.
Another thing I learned is police brass usually aren t too bad one on one, but collectively their heads are so far up their rumps they brush their teeth with toilet paper. I m amazed that a group of people who used to be actual cops can go into a meeting and come out with the crap they like to call policy. Look at our brothers and sisters with LAPD: One guy hits one crook in the head with his flashlight, and now every cop has to change flashlights.
This is a perfect example of how former cops became police management, walked into a meeting and shoved their heads up their collective butts. Sooner rather than later some LAPD cop will have an immediate need for a close-range impact weapon, and all they ll have is a down-sized high-tech light that s absolutely useless as an impact weapon. I ve checked out the lights, and they provide a ton of illumination and can even be used to poke or rake, but you can t use them to strike like a baton. I ll bet a paycheck the brass in that meeting said it was a good solution, but individually, none of them will admit to it.
Sorry for the diversion. When I get my crosshairs lined up on a busload of misguided managers, I like dropping the hammer. We can pull some good points out of it, though.
You need a dual attack plan. First, you gotta cut away individual members of your command staff and convince them a police union will work in their favor, too. Remember: These folks aren t so bad one on one. Sure, a union might make administering discipline a bit harder, but with pay and benefits, a union will help the brass as much as the troops. Every benefit and pay increase you secure will go to them as well.
With a department your size, you probably need only one lieutenant who will privately admit the benefits of a union. Keep the Lt. on your side and even guilt them into working on the rest of the brass for you. They won t win the game for you, but they might shave a few points in your favor. They ll also speak privately to other troops and show support for the idea.
Second, you must present the facts to the troops. Comparable agencies with unions get this. Medical costs are rising quickly. You need the projected cost of everything you can think of. Go online and find stories about the things represented/protected officers do and still have jobs (use large police lobbying organizations like the Police Officers Research Association of California).
It won t happen overnight, but they ll convince themselves if you keep plugging away. Anyone willing to try is one hell of a leader, so get to work and get it done.
Got a question or complaint?
Let Bullethead hear about it. He ll give you his opinion with both barrels.
E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org fax him at 619/699-6246.