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Deal with sergeants union might offer solution to pension crisis

Mayor Rahm Emanuel Chicago Police Sergeants' AssociatiPresident James Ade announce contract agreement City Hall Tuesday February 12 2012. | Richard

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Police Sergeants' Association President James Ade announce a contract agreement at City Hall on Tuesday, February 12, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times

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Updated: March 14, 2013 6:27AM



Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday touted a pension reform deal forged with Chicago Police sergeants as a “road map” for other unions to follow, but the divide-and-conquer strategy didn’t work with the Fraternal Order of Police.

In fact, it started a civil war within the ranks of Chicago Police officers.

FOP President Mike Shields, who has demanded a 12 percent pay raise over two years, accused the sergeants association of being “in bed with the city more than any other union in the history” of labor.

Shields branded sergeants association president Jim Ade “the biggest sell-out in the history of sell-outs” for agreeing to: raise the retirement age for sergeants to 53; increase employee pension contributions from 9 percent to 12 percent by 2015 and scale it back to 10 percent when funding levels reach 80 percent; eliminate cost-of-living increases every other year; limit cost-of-living adjustments in intervening years to 2.5 percent with simple interest and raise health care contributions for new retirees to 2 percent of annuities.

Sergeants would also get a 9 percent pay raise spread over four years while maintaining the $1,800-a-year uniform allowance and $3,220 in annual duty availability pay that supplements their income.

The city and union have also agreed to seek state legislation that would allow Emanuel to increase funding for the sergeants pension fund over a seven-year period. That would give the city more time and, if the economy turns around, reduce the amount of new revenue needed to meet union leaders half-way.

“It’s no wonder the former Sergeants [Association] President stole a million dollars from this same union before anyone noticed.  I wonder how long it will take for the Sergeants to figure out that jumping in bed with City Hall and selling out all police retirees was morally and ethically bankrupt,” Shields wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Shields noted that the police pension board represents more than 22,000 people, 17,000 of them FOP members. The sergeants association has just 1,180 members.

“But, they just agreed to pension reductions for thousands of retirees and people they do not represent and they did it while intentionally keeping the retirees, the FOP, and the Pension Board completely in the dark,” he said.

“City Hall was the sergeants’ partner in this scam.  A lot of people are going to be awfully sore about being sold out by a union that they never even belonged to. … Shame on them.”

Ade said he would urge his own son, who is an FOP member, to take the same “great deal.”

Under questioning, Ade acknowledged that the agreement would be a tough sell to his members. But he argued that pension reform is “coming” one way or another and that the alternative would be worse.

“It’s better to work together to fix the problem than to stand back and let someone else fix it. It’s our futures,” Ade said.

“It’s always better to work with ... City Hall and with the fifth-floor…to get things done than to always be combative. Then, nobody wins….We giving a little and we’re getting a little. We’re not looking for the stars and the moon, but we’re getting halfway there.”

At a City Hall news conference to trumpet the agreement as a way forward on pension reform, Emanuel applauded Ade for having the “courage to step forward where others refused to” lead.

Although the sergeants association is one of the city’s smallest unions, Emanuel argued that the agreement it forged establishes a “road map” for other unions to follow.

“We have more than a contract agreement. We have a framework for pensions that respects the retirement security of our employees and addresses the financial pressures on taxpayers,” the mayor said.

“We have in this state and this city discussed pension reform for a very long time with very little progress. This is the first agreement that has a sensible contract without going to arbitration, realistic pension reform that gets you on a path to …certainty and also changes how we fund retiree health care going forward. What we do with each particular union will be different. But, the fundamentals…are there…It’s gotta be done. We can’t run away from this.”

Tom Ryan, president of the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2, predicted that the sergeants deal would be “challenged legally” and said it does not set the stage for a similar agreement with firefighters.

“The needs of a smaller union may not be the same needs for my membership,” Ryan said.

Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez could not be reached.

Ramirez has insisted that Emanuel put new revenue on the table to meet union leaders half-way before employee concessions are even discussed.



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