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Battle of the Badges

Labor Fight Headed to Columbus
Photo by: Chris Myers

Toledo’s two unions representing police officers are united men and women in blue who have chosen to battle the Bell  administration over “exigent circumstances.”

While every other municipal union this week settled their differences with the new mayor and voted on an alternative agreement, the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association and command officers union rejected similar contract concessions that would have meant renewed peace among the city’s rank-and-file.

The exigent circumstances declaration approved by Toledo City Council at the end of March forces contract concessions on both police unions—where members pay ten percent of their pension pickup through the end of the year and an increased monthly share of health care costs based on a sliding salary scale.

Both the TPPA and Toledo Police Command Officers Association plan to take the battle the State Employment Relations Board (SERB) as an unfair labor practice. The Bell administration is seeking $2.6 million in savings from the TPPA and $900,000 in concessions from the TPCOA.

Union leaders from both labor groups contend their members already gave enough concessions last summer. Rank-and-file each rejected a temporary agreement reached with the mayor’s top brass over the past few weeks.

Some observers have likened the situation to a hand of Texas Hold’em, and had credited Mayor Mike Bell with holding his poker cards close to his biker vest. With at least six city unions, the mayor “bluffed” and won with alternative agreements reached, according to their line of thinking. But two more poker players want the mayor to show his cards, claiming the city’s financial state really isn’t that bad.

Exigent circumstances already is uncharted territory that a judge recently refused to go into, calling it SERB’s responsibility to referee. The recent case of the “blue flu” certainly didn’t win the police officers union any sympathy. In fact, it probably reversed any community support gained last year by the painful police layoffs that occurred.

Now the game moves into the next event—financial gymnastics. There will be three judges in this floor exercise: the members of SERB. Whoever wins the balanced budget beam can claim victory, but at what future cost?