Police officers union vies with management dominated group to represent 214 sergeants

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St. Louis – An historic representation election is about to take place in the St. Louis Police Department to determine who will represent the department’s 214 sergeants: the St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA) who represents the department’s 1,000 working police and probationary officers or the Police Leadership Organization (PLO), a group of management officers that includes the chief of police and the department’s top ranking management police officers.

For the sergeants, who are expected to vote on who will represent them within the next 45 days, the choice offers a stark contrast:

A true union – SLPOA- which just completed two historic firsts: winning recognition as the bargaining agent for the working blue-collar officers and then actually negotiating the first contract city police officers have ever had, a contract that has many new benefits for the workforce.

A management group – PLO – that is dominated by the very people who the sergeants would have to negotiate with. By threatening to sue the Police Board if they were not allowed to participate in a representation election, the PLO blocked the Police Board’s voluntary recognition for the sergeants who demonstrated they wanted to be represented by SLPOA when 60 percent of them signed SLPOA authorization cards.

To avoid a long legal battle that would delay an election, the SLPOA, despite having the majority support among sergeants, convinced the Police Commissioners to hold the election between the two groups so that the sergeants could get representation as soon as possible.

SLPOA is an active member of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council and as such, has the resources of the entire St. Louis Labor Movement behind them. Business Manager Jeff Roorda is a member of the council’s executive board.

CONTRASTS ARE CLEAR

In a memo to all sergeants, the SLPOA executive board outlined the choice the sergeants will have:

St. Louis Police Officers Association (SLPOA) won:

• The right to collective bargaining for the first time in the department’s 150-year history.

• A $2.5 million wage boost by winning full funding for the salary step increases.

• An historic first union negotiated contract that features, besides the pay issues, mediation and binding arbitration for grievances now and for future contract negotiations.

• Preservation of the police pension fund.

• A grievance process that will allow officers to appeal unfair disciplinary decisions and have union representation in those hearings.

• Fair share fees to be paid by police officers who do not want to actually join the association but who get all the negotiated benefits.

• Availability of a full-time, experienced and politically savvy business manager and staff to actively represent, and be available to, officers any time of day or night should problems arise.

• A successor clause that guarantees that if the City were to gain control of the department, all wages, seniority and benefits remain in place.

• One of the most experienced and competent labor lawyers who won the right for police officers to bargain collective bargaining before the Missouri Supreme Court.

• The strongest police contract in Missouri, according to the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police (FOP).

• The resources of the national FOP to stand behind any SLPOA efforts to represent their members.

Police Leadership Organization (PLO)

Prevented sergeants from being a part of the original bargaining unit and thus prevented them from winning raises that the rest of the police force received as a result of being members of the SLPOA.

• Has never negotiated a single union contract.

• Is dominated by the Chief of Police and his ranking officers.

• Represents only middle management of the department.

• Is not affiliated with any legitimate labor organization.

• Never spoke up for over 43 years as the SLPOA fought for bargaining rights. Now that the SLPOA represent police officers, suddenly the PLO wants recognition to control the sergeants.

UNION: STRENGTH IN NUMBERS

“Being a union is about more than simply calling yourself a labor organization,” the SLPOA said in a recent letter to all sergeants. “It is about the strength of standing united as employees to guarantee fair treatment by management. It’s about making the right decisions for your members and exercising the political influence that comes from joining together as one.”

“There’s no question that the PLO has its place in the police department,” said Roorda. Middle management has every right to form an organization that stands-up for their issues…but sergeants are not middle management and the PLO is not a labor union.”

“Had sergeants been a part of the original bargaining unit, they would not have had to suffer these past nine months without a pay raise,” said SLPOA President David Bonenberger “It wasn’t until the SLPOA went to the Police Board with 60 percent of the representation cards from the sergeants seeking recognition that the PLO even raised its head. Because of their intervention, which included a threatened lawsuit, sergeants have suffered substantial pay losses by not being a part of our union sooner.”

BLUE COLLAR MAN

Questioned Roorda: “Who do you think is better suited to represent sergeants? A management organization dominated by white shirts or a labor union led by blue shirts with a proven record of negotiating strong contract provisions? I think the answer for sergeants is clear: ‘I’d rather be a blue collar man!’”

Added Bonenberger, a police sergeant: “To my fellow sergeants, I promise that the SLPOA will be the best bargaining unit you can have and I pledge our devotion to ensure the absolute best possible representation.” Besides being the current SLPOA president, Bonenberger had once served on the PLO’s board.

“I can tell you that the SLPOA is the clear choice to be the representative bargaining unit for sergeants,” Bonenberger added.

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