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Police Labor Conflict in Boston: Summer 2004
This report aims to discuss a recent negotiation that occurred in the city of Boston in June of 2004. As the 2004 election comes to a close and as of this writing we still have no official winner for the office of President of the United States. The Democratic Party is patiently awaiting the results of the vote from the state of Ohio. But that is not the only issues the Democrats faced in this will campaign for President. In May and June of 2004, the Democratic National Convention slated for a rousing Boston welcome was instead greeted by the Boston Police Union's bid for a major strike that targeted Boston's Fleet Center where the Democratic National Convention was to be held. The strike was a thorn in Mayor Thomas M. Menino's side as he tried to present Boston as a labor friendly city even though the police union and other city employees had been working without contracts for years. The strike had tied Mayor Menino up in court for weeks as he tried to use the legal due process system to negotiate restrictions against the Police and city unions so that the Fleet Center could get desperately needed repairs prior to the Democratic National Convention. The report therefore focuses on a real-life negotiation that was recently concluded. The sources were secondary data sources that attempt to present the details of the negotiation by identifying the parties involved, the central and secondary issues, the interests of each party, the opening positions of the parties and a description of how the negotiations evolved and were resolved. And in conclusion, the paper presents some recommendations for both parties.
Identification of the parties and Key Players
As the Democratic National Convention came to Boston, the city was in a negotiation with several city employee unions about absentee contracts. One union was the city's police union, the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association (BPPA), but they were not alone. The Boston Firefighters Union was also working without a contract for over two years so the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association and the firefighters were in contract talks. "Several days of talks between City Hall and another key union representing clerks and janitors also broke off yesterday, potentially feeding more disgruntled union members to the picket lines." (Van Voorhis & Meyers, 2004)
The representative or head of the labor council for the BPPA was Richard Rogers who was attempting to secure a contract for his union members from the city, represented by Mayor Thomas M. Menino. A mediation team had been used to help negotiations but even that move did not work. The negotiations prior to the Democratic National Convention were going badly and were leading to a strike vote by the city employees. "Talks between the city and a police union that picketed outside the site of the Democratic National Convention were to resume Wednesday after a marathon negotiation session failed to produce an agreement." (Associated Press, 2004)
Identification of the central and secondary issues
The central issue for both parties was the absentee contract for city employees. The city employees had been working on either an extension of an old contract or with no contract at all over the course of the previous few years. Both sides tried to show that they were in a position of power to the media even though they were told to gag negotiations publicly. "Talks began Sunday evening but adjourned shortly after 5 a.m. Police Commissioner Kathleen O'Toole said that a new mediator who was brought on board advised both sides not to talk about the negotiations." (Associated Press, 2004) The cost of living and inflation were inching beyond wages and the need for renegotiation in matters such as healthcare contracts, pensions and job security were all secondary issues associated to the city employee's contract.
Identification of the opening positions and interests
Without a doubt, the opening position for both parties was based on the fact that city employees had gone without a contract for several years. "Menino had urged his negotiating team to stay at the bargaining table until reaching an agreement. The 1,400-member Boston Police Patrolmen's Association has been without a contract since June 2002."(Associated Press, 2004) The city, represented by the mayor, tried to say that the unions had rejected any attempts to meet on a contract that they had indeed offered a proposed contract.
The police union on the other side of the fence felt that the city's offer did not meet their expectations so they were in search of more. "The police union, claiming it has gone for years without a raise, has vowed to stop preparations for the DNC until Menino comes through with a new contract. The city has offered an 11.9% raise over four years." (Van Voorhis & Meyers, 2004)
Identification of the final position, tactics used and methods employed and how negotiations evolved
The obvious tactics used by the two sides revolve around the use of the ability to strike, use mediation and the courts. The police union began its opposition by organizing a strike against the city during an obviously crucial time. The union strike by firefighters and police was purposely targeting a highly visible event that had national media coverage. By striking against the city's ability to prepare the Fleet Center as it was being prepared for the Democratic National Convention, union officials were aware that the work site was being worked by several construction unions that would not cross a picket line for fear of alienating the PBBA for their own future strikes. "In a showdown yesterday morning, pickets from the police union and an array of other city unions turned back a crane that tried to enter the Fleet Center's gates with shouts of "scab" and a stream of angry invective. The driver, after several attempts to nudge his crane forward, threw up his hands, evoking wild cheering from the picketers." (Van Voorhis & Meyers, 2004) They also had full media coverage that crossed national boundaries which helped bring in other unions like the New York policeman's union to help strengthen resolve.
The mayor approached the strike and the union concerns by utilizing the court system. As the police union and its supporters threatening to shut down the Democratic National Convention work, the mayor appealed to a federal judge to restrict the union's ability to strike around the Fleet Center "In court today, city officials will ask a federal judge to enforce an earlier ruling that restricted police to informational picketing. The city will seek to prevent union members from stopping trucks from entering the Fleet Center's confines, though city lawyer Merita Hopkins said there are no plans to have on-duty police officers arrest their protesting counterparts." (Van Voorhis & Meyers, 2004) Both sides also succumbed to a court appointed mediator to help resolve the issue.
The professional negotiator had the difficult task of meeting in the middle for two sides that were a great distance apart. The dispute also presented a challenge to John Kerry because his party has always claimed they represented organized labor and the national labor movement. Eventually, one of the biggest bargaining chips which helped the two sides reach an agreement was that Senator John Kerry decided not to cross the picket line outside the Fleet Center. The police union members were therefore helped dramatically by the presidential hopeful's decision and the city and Thomas Menino were publicly disappointed by Kerry's action.
Resolution of negotiations
The BPPA and the City of Boston eventually settled their contract dispute with a last minute executive-branch negotiation resolution. "The contract settlement was arrived at after a few days of perfunctory hearings conducted by a hastily-appointed arbitrator. Normally, arbitration matters take anywhere between 6 months to over one year to even arrive at the hearing stage. A desperate, alleged-democratic Mayor Menino, eager to curry favor with his anti-union, blue-collar-despising, elitist friend Governor Romney, begged the Lexington venture-capitalist robber-baron to bail him out of an embarrassing situation by manipulating and twisting the established process for settling contractual disputes at the JLMC (Joint Labor-Management Committee)." (Carnell, 2004)
Even though the negotiations were successfully completed, the results have not squashed union dismay with the city's actions. "Despite the fact that the contract had remained unsettled and that no amount of seriousness had been paid to the long-expired contract issue for over two years, the alleged "friend of labor" Mayor joined forces with the Cheshire Cat Governor to force the contract to an unheard-of, rammed-through "expedited" arbitration hearing unprecedented in Massachusetts labor history for the level of collusion and back-door double dealing which occurred between the various factions of supposedly oppositional political foes." (Carnell, 2004)
The court appointed arbitrator gave the union approximately three percent more of a wage hike than the city proposed. The union received 14.5% pay hike over four years. This was a compromise because the officers union was seeking more and the city was only offering eleven point nine…[continue]
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