For students who have grown used to union rallies and pickets, most of the issues dividing the Yale Police Department union and the university have been heard before: pensions, wages, job security. But then, there is the question of what is to be done with Eric Stolzman.
Stolzman, 51, a former campus police officer whose heart problems forced him to retire nine years ago, has been an issue during the last two tempestuous contract negotiations. Members of the Yale Police Benevolent Association (YPBA), the Yale Police Department’s union, argue that Stolzman should receive additional medical benefits, a move university negotiators have resisted.
“We do have a proposal that would help him,” YPBA chief steward Christopher Morganti said. “Yale dismissed it.”
Stolzman said he suffered chest pains while chasing a burglary suspect on April 19, 1994, and had to undergo an emergency angioplasty at Yale-New Haven Hospital. He has had three more angioplasties since then. As he lay on the stretcher during the April 1994 incident, another officer took away Stolzman’s gun for safety concerns. He would never see it again.
Stolzman was found unfit for police work because of his heart condition and forced to retire a few months later.
University Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said she was aware of Stolzman’s situation but declined to say whether the university would be willing to consider upgrading his health benefits to match those of the current contract.
“If [YPBA representatives] want to discuss that at the negotiating table, that would be the appropriate place for a university response,” Highsmith said.
Stolzman and his supporters say he should receive the long-term disability package of the current contract, which Morganti said would entitle him to increased medical and pension benefits. Under the previous contract in place when he retired, Stolzman said he will receive about $300 a month, or seven percent of his salary at the time he was injured, when he reaches the age of 65. Stolzman said he currently receives a percentage of his former salary and relies on his wife for health care. He said he is worried about his health care when he reaches retirement age.
“I really need this,” he said. “By 2017, I could really be in trouble.”
During the last contract dispute, which ended in 1998, the YPBA pushed for Stolzman to receive the benefits negotiated under the new contract. However, after tense negotiating sessions that lasted more than two years and required several meetings with New Haven Mayor John Destefano Jr., the police dropped the issue in order to ease tensions between the two sides, Morganti said.
On Nov. 21, Stolzman spoke at a YPBA rally on Beinecke Plaza protesting the university’s position in the current contract dispute. University officials and police have been renewing their contract on a monthly basis since it expired 17 months ago. Stolzman said things have improved since his time with the department, but that the university’s relationship with its police force is still strained.
“There is no respect here,” Stolzman said. “[Yale has] had trouble keeping people because they don’t treat you as a municipality does.”
Yale Police Chief James Perrotti said Stolzman had been treated fairly in his time with the department and that the issue should be discussed at negotiations.
Morganti said the proposal to upgrade Stolzman’s contract is still active.
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