Feelings are mixed on police contract

Leaders of the University’s police union said they will give a lukewarm assessment of the proposed contract they negotiated last week when they discuss details of the settlement with union members today.

The negotiating team for the Yale Police Benevolent Association — which represents 55 officers and detectives — decided it will not make a recommendation about whether union members should vote for or against the tentative agreement, YPBA Chief Steward Christopher Morganti said. The decision reflects mixed feelings about the quality of the settlement, he said.

“We want to let the membership have a say without us saying too much,” Morganti said.

University and YPBA officials reached a tentative agreement last week, after a marathon negotiating session at City Hall. Campus police have been renewing their contract on a monthly basis since it expired 26 months ago.

Older officers — who comprise most of the members of the negotiating team — will likely support the settlement, which includes a generous pension package, Morganti said. But younger officers may be less pleased, he said, and it is unclear if the contract will be approved when it is put to a vote Monday.

University Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith — who participated in bargaining for Yale — said she believes the contract is a good one and hopes campus police officers will approve it.

YPBA chief negotiator John Grottole said union leaders have qualms with the contract’s provisions for overtime, long-term disability, officer discipline, and longevity and shift-differential pay.

The procedures for disciplining officers was a stumbling block throughout negotiations. Yale eventually agreed that after incidents where deadly force is used, officers will be allowed to consult with lawyers before making statements. But the University refused to negotiate on most discipline issues, Grottole said.

“They played hardball on that,” he said.

During negotiations, Grottole said union leaders were unable to secure either longevity pay — a bonus for officers who have worked more than five years — or a shift deferential — an hourly bonus for police working shifts in off hours.

In the area of overtime, YPBA members wanted language specifying the ratio of officers to supervisors allowed during overtime. Yale agreed to include some provisions regulating the overtime ratio, but Grottole said the language in the settlement is too vague.

“They didn’t want to have an overtime ratio because they thought it would tie the chief’s hands,” Grottole said.

The fourth problem with the proposed contract is its long-term disability provisions, Grottole said. Yale refused to increase the disability earnings cap — the percent of previous earnings a permanently disabled officer can make in another job while still collecting disability pay, Grottole said. The YPBA had wanted an 100 percent earnings cap for officers injured while working, with no cap for officers injured in the line of duty. In the new agreement, as in the previous contract, disabled officers have an 80 percent cap, with an 100 percent cap if they are injured in the line of duty.

The new long-term disability plan also includes no provisions for retired Yale police officer Eric Stolzman, Grottole said. Stolzman, 51, was forced to retire after suffering chest pains on the job 10 years ago. Since then, he has had four angioplasties, and YPBA negotiators had pushed for Yale to increase his medical benefits to the levels agreed to in the previous contract, which was signed in 1998.

Yale refused to discuss Stolzman at the bargaining table, Grottole said, and union organizers were forced to drop the issue.

Stolzman — who said he is worried he will be unable to pay his medical bills — expressed frustration with the proposed contract.

“I really needed this,” Stolzman said. “I don’t think it really would have financially hurt the University to have included me.”

The YPBA negotiating team made the decision to take a neutral position on the contract at a meeting Saturday. The team will hold meetings today and Friday to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the tentative agreement with union members, Morganti said.


  • RodneyNorth

    Part 1 of 2
    As one of the employee-owners of Equal Exchange I want to say we appreciate the vigor of Mr. Graver’s argument and especially that he shares our concerns for the fate and welfare of small farmers around the world.

    I’d also like to reassure him that the students, staff and faculty of Yale needn’t worry about the decision to serve our Fair Trade coffee in the dining halls. To the contrary Yale should be proud that your dining services have been one of the leaders amongst university programs to think long and hard about the big picture, and real world ramifications, of where and how it sources its food and beverages. See http://www.yale.edu/sustainablefood/about_faq.html

    As for Mr. Gravers assertions – most of them seem to be borrowed from the Adam Smith Institute that he cited. Over the years this institute periodically attacks the efficacy of Fair Trade but has unfortunately never taken the time to learn how it actually works – as is evidenced by the many mis-characterizations contained in its own publications. Many in the Fair Trade community have tried to give the Institute a proper introduction to the market mechanics of Fair Trade but to no avail. Unfortunately Mr. Graver seems to have both recycled their unfounded criticisms and repeated their mistake. We believe that acting as a journalist he should have contacted Equal Exchange to check his facts and premises before going to print. Over all the column contains many more factual errors than I can address at this time.

    But for beginners it is telling that neither the institute nor Mr. Graver acknowledge that sometimes Fair Trade and free trade actually align quite well – as is the case in the heavily protected US cotton, sugar and peanut markets that block out imports to the detriment of small farmers in Africa and Latin America. Fair Trade proponents like ourselves would like to see these markets opened up.

    More importantly the institute and Mr. Graver confuse Fair Trade (a set of practices to guide *specific* transactions between *specific* importers and *specific* producer groups in the global South) with government or globally mandated price programs that influence or even set the price for **all** of the crop produced and sold in a country or even the whole world.

    (continued in part 2)

  • RodneyNorth

    (part 2 of 2)

    Because of this the prices paid by Fair Trade importers like ourselves apply ONLY to the crops we import (which with other Fair Trade buyers collectively represent only about 5% of global coffee production). The other 95% of the global coffee crop is still priced according to traditional free market forces. In most years this means that most farmers make a very meager income – maybe $500 – or $1,000 a year if they’re lucky. Because of Fair Trade’s selective and limited impact it is not a “price setter” that inadvertently lures farmers into growing the wrong crops. Rather, it is an voluntary choice by a few actors within the market to pay a higher price than they would otherwise. So while we, and other fair traders, are NOT setting a minimum wage for all the world’s coffee what we can do is say “for the coffee WE buy we will pay a fair price.” (We actually do much more than just pay better prices – but that’s another story – see [http://www.SmallFarmersBigChange.coop][1] ).

    And we do so this because we know that in the real world markets actually *don’t work well enough*, and that many of the assumed market elements described in text books do not exist in farming communities. There is great asymmetry between the few well connected and resource rich buyers and the many, usually disconnected sellers (the farmers). There is asymmetry in access to information, to markets, to credit, insurance, land and labor, and more.

    And not least of all when you grow up on a mountainside, on a coffee farm that is a day’s walk from the nearest town and maybe a 4 day drive from the nearest port, you have a very limited set of economic choices. You cannot just choose to replace your coffee orchard with a cherry or apple orchard. You cannot follow one season’s price signals and switch to soy beans or strawberries, and then switch back again. With very limited schooling in your community you have very little access to “professional” career options. Unfortunately, choices you DO have are to maybe grow drugs, or move to the slums in Lima or Nairobi, or migrate illegally to the States or Europe.

    The fact is that farmers are usually making prudent decisions in very constrained circumstances. Even at the typically low market prices growing coffee (or cocoa, bananas, etc) is often the best choice amongst a limited set of options. With Fair Trade we make their hard work at little better compensated, a little more sustainable (both economically and ecologically) and a little more just.

    Rodney North, [www.EqualExchange.Coop][2]

    [1]: http://www.SmallFarmersBigChange.coop
    [2]: http://www.EqualExchange.coop