Friday, November 17, 2006

A comment from John Griffith regarding the comment by Todd Powell

I think we would all agree that e-board members must respect the confidentiality of members involved in grievances and other issues. What I find odd about this matter is that if an e-board member leaked the information about someone being asked not to negotiate for himself, I didn't hear anything about it. And nobody I know did either. I would suspect most of us didn't know anything about it, until reading the email from our brother.

So, let me get this straight. An e-board member whispered that a certain member (one who's running for president) received a letter asking him to comply with long-established union policies and procedures (not to mention laws). And the response to this privacy infraction was a job-wide email telling everyone that the union had "reprimanded" and "punished" this member! This universally-dispersed email concluded with an endorsement for the member as president. Huh!?!

Is it a coincidence that these events unfolded as ballots arrived in our mailboxes? I hope so. I would hope that the email and subsequent endorsement were borne out of a genuine concern and was not simply a campaign publicity stunt.

I feel bad for the member who wrote the job-wide email. It seems he was told things that weren't exactly true and, because he's a good guy, he justly acted upon what he was told.

Now that the correspondence (including the letter which started it all) is in all the stations, everyone can read that there were never any mentions of punishment or reprimands - just a simple, nicely-worded request. In my book, being kindly asked to stop doing something, without any kind of threat attached, is a far cry from a reprimand or a punishment. But, that's just how I see it. I guess we all look at the world, and how we interact with it, differently.

And that leaves me wondering what this is really all about.

Thanks for letting me have my two-cents worth!


A Comment from Todd Powell


Could you post this on the Blog?




A cornerstone of any successful organization is its ability to maintain privacy and confidentiality when dealing with sensitive issues regarding its members. The members, customers or clients not only should expect this but demand it of any organization they belong to or do business with. Because issues of a sensitive nature are discussed with the board of directors or E-Board, they are required to sign confidentiality agreements. In a well run organization, a violation of this confidentiality agreement requires swift and aggressive action. If violations are allowed to happen with no consequence, the credibility of the organization quickly erodes.

The question is:
When the E-Board is allowed to discuss private, confidential issues to outsiders without consequence, where is our organization headed?

Todd Powell

Important Notice


Dear Brothers and sisters:

Yesterday, one of our members claimed that Local 29 had “reprimanded” one of its members for negotiating pay and benefits outside the union contract. I would like to address this issue.

First, let me say that the union did not reprimand anyone. Nor, does the union have the capability to “reprimand” any of its members. Nor would we want to – ever. Also, the narrative account of what compelled this member to address this “WRONGING OF A BROTHER” is inaccurate. While what had happened was confidential for protection of the member, it is public information – especially since the email that went out over the city’s email. So now we have to address the issue, as it is important for all members to understand not only the events, but also as a reminder of what it means to be a union.

As many of you now know from the email, we had a member who was asked if he would be interested in coming back for several months to mentor new investigators. From the beginning, the administration should have brought the union on-board in this conversation. They did not. Accordingly, the member wanted to be paid the rate he was being paid before, when he was previously as an investigator – and he said so in an email to the chief. The local was then informed by these negotiations by one of our members. I called the Assistant Chief to ask if this was accurate. He sent me the email from the member who was negotiating.

As many of you already know, individuals cannot negotiate individual benefits for themselves. For those of you who don’t know this let me talk a little bit about this. First, it is not legal for a member to do this – according to Article II Recognition of our current contract.

Beyond the legality issue, here’s the “why” of it. We stand together as a union, or we fall together as a union. It’s my job, as president to protect the integrity of the union. And when I say “integrity” I mean that the union is about all of us. It’s not about one person over the other. I am required to safeguard the institutional strength of the union. As president, I would have to take action when any member approached management to negotiate wages, hours or conditions of work.

So, let me tell you the action that I took. On the 7th of November, I received the email from the Assistant Chief. I then forwarded it to all the e-board members and said that we would have to discuss this issue at the November 14th e-board meeting. At the e-board meeting, our last order of business – with only e-board members present – a motion was made and carried to send a letter to the member asking him not to negotiate on his own behalf. I abstained from this conversation and vote because of the election. And that was it – no reprimand, no discipline – just a request and a reminder that Local 29 could be subject to an Unfair Labor Practice because of this. Please see the attachments to see this and other emails.

A reminder – I wanted to keep this matter between the parties involved. But, because one of our members mailed it through the city email, it’s now a matter of public information.

Since this has transpired, we have received a request from the Investigation Office that they would like us to negotiate for this member to receive his justly deserved compensation. And we will. There’s also the issue that the city has engaged in an Unfair Labor Practice by talking directly to the members involved in these proceedings. To resolve this issue, we will argue that the city pay the member more than what he originally asked for. It’s important that everyone honors our contract. It’s this unifying document that defines who we are and what we do.

In closing, I will address the “WHAT YOU NEED TO ASK YOURSELF ARE THESE QUESTIONS:” segment of the email.

1. First, an individual cannot ask for something that is not in the contract. Only the union can do that. Second, while arson investigators have additional pay for what they do, it is not a “supplemental pay.” There is language in the contract to address this HazMat issue. There is no language to address arson investigator pay around the same issue. Any clarification that comes from this will come from Local 29.
2. The decision was made the first time the e-board met, after receiving the information. We had a responsibility, as your elected officials, to respond immediately. And again, I didn’t release the information. You know about this matter because of the email sent by one of our members.
3. After reading the correspondence and talking to Chief Schaeffer, we had the information needed to ask the member not to contact management about wages, hours or conditions of work. There was no finding of guilt, there was no punishment. It was simply a request.
4. See # 3. No guilt found. No punishment delivered.

Additionally, I would like to address the closing comments in the email. This solicitation asking a member to vote for one candidate over the other, on the heels of this error-filled email, does a disservice to all, including those running for office.

I have contacted the IAFF Vice-President and our labor attorney. They both concluded that the executive board made the correct and legal decision in requesting the member to cease. Please read the attachments.


Greg Borg

Local 29 President