Charges County delayed, delayed, delayed in spite of two Supreme Court rulings
It took a lawsuit filed against St. Louis County by the St. Louis County Police Officers Association (SLCPA) to finally get County Government to respond to a year old request for recognition for the police officers union and to begin a process of collective bargaining for 700 County police officers, over 400 of which are association members.
After the lawsuit was filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court on July 12, on July 15 the County finally responded to an opening contract proposal from the SLCPA that was submitted four months previously, on March 15.
The County’s response brought a strong rebuke from a former police chief who is now the business manager for the St. Louis City Police Officers Association Lodge 15, State Representative Jeff Roorda, who characterized the response thusly:
“The way the County’s document is written with so many holes, anyone in County government could scribble a change on a cocktail napkin and change any part of a final agreement.”
POLICE ARE ‘FRUSTRATED, ANGRY’
The County’s response has evoked frustration, anger and resentment from County police officers, SLCPA President Gabe Crocker told the Labor Tribune.
“We have been very patient – four years patient – in trying to have the County sit down and bargain in good faith. At every turn they ignored us.
“And their response to our initial proposal had so many contingencies that in reality, we would have no contract at all. It’s offensive to the police officers. And let me make it clear, we are not battling our command staff. All we want to do is codify in an agreement what we are doing right now so that everyone knows the playing field.
“All we are asking for is fair treatment,” Crocker said.
“We understand the County’s financial issues. We are willing to work with them. But our officers want firm guidelines and commitment in a written, binding contract.”
Says the police officers lawsuit: “(The) County has violated the mandate set forth by the Missouri Supreme Court…requiring public employers to bargain in good faith (with the intent of reaching an agreement) with the representatives chosen by their employees.”
DEMONSTRATION OF THEIR REASONABLENESS
And to demonstrate their willingness to be reasonable, Crocker pointed out, the association has proposed to a three-year phase in of any final agreement.
Another example: the SLCPA’s proposal agreed to incorporate into a contract many of the police department’s current policies, including those of conduct and discipline. The County’s counter deleted that offer entirely, as well as, federally mandated laws such as Weingarten.
“Why would they not be interested in giving us what we already have?” questioned Crocker.“ That’s foolish on their part. Unfortunately, it is a very sad, and quite frankly, laughable counter offer and there was no need for it.”
NOT BEING HONEST WITH COUNTY EXECUTIVE
In a comment to the Labor Tribune, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley said a police commissioner told him that they had just received the proposal and needed more time to review it before the lawsuit was filed.
“Someone was not being honest with the County executive. They’ve had our preliminary proposal for four months,” said Crocker, adding, “The SLCPA cannot, in good conscience to its officers, allow these ridiculous stall tactics to continue.
In announcing the lawsuit, Crocker said, “We entered this process with high hopes and have given the Dooley Administration every opportunity to move this process along. It has become apparent that this administration is simply not interested in addressing the needs of police officers and their families.
“I am deeply disappointed that we were forced into this situation by our employer. This is very frustrating, and quite frankly a sad day, for St. Louis County police officers and the good citizens of St. Louis County.”
The association asked the court to order the county to “immediately” enter into “good faith” collective bargaining and to appoint a special master to oversee the negotiations when they begin.
Besides county patrolmen and sergeants in the county police department, the SLCPO also represents St. Louis County Department of Justice Services and St. Louis County Park Rangers.
County Board of Police Commissioners stalled recognition
Two years after County police officers to re-form the then dormant St. Louis County Police Officers Association:
• Recognition by the Board of Police Commissioners finally came on Sept. 4, 2013;
• Despite numerous requests by the police union to meet, there has not yet been a single face-to-face bargaining meeting between the police board or its negotiating committee and the union’s negotiate committee;
• While the County had the association’s initial proposal for four months without responding, it took a lawsuit to finally get a counter proposal.
And the lawsuit should have not been a surprise: the association, after four months of waiting for a response to its opening proposal, notified the County that if there was no response by July 10, there would be a lawsuit. On July 10, an assistant country counselor emailed that a counter proposal would be forthcoming July 15.
Enough was enough: with so many commitments and promises of action violated by the County, the lawsuit was filed on July 12.