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Chicago Cops Get Smallest Pay Hike in Nearly 30 Years

Chicago Cops Get Smallest Pay Hike in Nearly 30 Years

Budget Director Eugene Munin said the city plans to finance the back pay portion by issuing $160 million in so-called commercial paper, a short-term line of credit retired by general city revenues. Borrowing to pay day-to-day operating expenses is not id

Chicago Tribune via YellowBrix

April 18, 2010

CHICAGO – Chicago taxpayers dodged a fiscal bullet today when an independent arbitrator awarded rank-and-file police officers a 10 percent pay hike over five years, their smallest five-year increase in nearly 30 years.

The pay raise falls short of the 16.1 percent Mayor Daley once offered and even shorter of the 24 percent the Fraternal Order of Police demanded. But, the pricetag is still a whopping $375 million — $160 million of it for retroactive pay.

Budget Director Eugene Munin said the city plans to finance the back pay portion by issuing $160 million in so-called commercial paper, a short-term line of credit retired by general city revenues.

Borrowing to pay day-to-day operating expenses is not ideal. It’s kind of like putting groceries on a credit card. But, Munin said the city has no other choice.

“We don’t have a lot of options. Our revenues dropped precipitously after the recession started and, more significantly, in 2008. We have current obligations that we have to meet. It’s the best option that we have right now,” Munin said.

“We’re not considering a tax increase. … If our revenues were higher — and they will return to some level closer to 2007 — then we’ll be in a better position to retire any debt that we have.”

Mayor Daley was careful not to gloat over the city’s victory. But, he had a message for the rank-and-file who will undoubtedly be bitterly disappointed: Don’t blame me for the 16.1 percent that your union leaders left on the table.

“If I agreed to 16 percent, they had my word on 16 percent. But, union officials must have not trusted [it]. I’m their kicking boy. In order to make their members mad at me, they have to kick me around. I understand that. That’s how it works. They make me the bad guy. But, I’m not the bad guy in this situation,” Daley said.

“If I gave you my word, my word is good. But, they said, ‘Let’s go to arbitration.’ They went to arbitration and they only got ten percent … I ask all the police officials and all their families: Don’t blame me. It was not me. It was your union officials … I have to be the whipping boy on a lot of issues. But, I stood tall.”

Chicago aldermen, who have 90 days to approve the contract, emerged from closed-door briefings on the agreement predicting ratification.

“From a liability standpoint, the city dodged a bullet,” said Ald. George Cardenas (12th), who once predicted Council rejection of a double-digit pay hike.

Ald. Tom Allen (38th), whose Northwest Side ward is home to scores of police officers, called the ruling “a practical result” from an arbitrator who “took into account the current economic climate.”

“Everyone wants to get this put to bed. I would hope it gets support and we wrap it up. It’s almost time to start negotiating the next contract,” he said.

Ald. Freddrenna Lyle (6th) predicted that rank-and-file officers would be “very disappointed” by the ruling and said she’s “not happy” either.

“I would prefer that we lived in a better economic climate so there wouldn’t be this squeeze between what people are entitled to and what we can afford to pay,” Lyle said.

In March, 2009, Daley pulled off the table an offer to raise the salaries of Chicago Police officers by 16.1 percent over five years.

The decision to withdraw a contract offer the FOP deemed inadequate to begin with so infuriated the rank-and-file, thousands of officers marched around City Hall chanting, “Daley sucks.”

The April 2, 2009 protest was timed to embarrass Daley during the International Olympic Committee’s final site visit to Chicago.

After that, the city revised its offer to ten percent over five years. But, the first 2.5 years of those pay hikes would have gone directly into the police pension fund, effectively freezing police salaries during that period.

In that sense, the arbitrator’s ruling of a 6.5 percent retroactive paycheck is a victory for the Fraternal Order of Police.

Deputy Corporation Counsel David Johnson touted several key provisions that have nothing to do with pay and everything to do with performance: random alcohol testing for on-duty officers; mandatory drug and alcohol testing whenever officers discharge their weapons on or off-duty and the addition of Ecstasy and anabolic steroids to current drug testing.

“There’s been a lot of public attention on the whole issue of behavior of police officers — both on-duty and off-duty. There have been a number of regrettable incidents, most of them off-duty. We felt that it was very essential” to do testing, Johnson said, calling the weapon discharge provision “without precedent” around the nation.


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