There is a decision looming to be made by you, our members, in the coming months. What path shall we take to guarantee the stable level of union representation to which we have grown accustom? Maybe the first question you have is, “Mark, what are you talking about?”
Earlier this year, during the last Nevada Legislative Session, a new law called SB 241 was created. This new law requires all public sector unions, like the LVPPA, to reimburse their employers (LVMPD) for all compensation that employees receive for being “allowed” to work at the union conducting union business on your behalf. In short, Metro is going to demand that we, the membership of the LVPPA, pay for, or give concessions equal to, the benefit that Metro pays on behalf of each full-time Board member. Metro plans to calculate the roll-up costs for each of the seven full-time representatives assigned to the LVPPA. This calculation typically includes things paid by Metro such as salary, pension contributions, health care premiums, workers’ compensation insurance premiums, etc. The law was created because some people in our community believe it’s wrong to employ police and corrections officers who don’t perform traditional police and corrections functions. In other words, they don’t want to pay for any officer who works to ensure that those who protect others are protected as well.
It’s ironic to me that this type of law was created, yet I can point to several other unaffected positions all around the Department that are helpful to the overall mission, yet have no direct impact on enforcing laws. Our function here at the LVPPA is much, much deeper than just traditional union work, as so many people like to stereotype us. We do negotiate and administer our contracts, take grievances, fight and mitigate discipline, etc. However, our role does not stop there. We also serve as a “benefits section” for LVMPD. We are advocates P# 868 for employees in so many ways. We help oversee our health care benefits, advocating to ensure our people receive the best health care, dental and vision possible. We are there to make sure management doesn’t make decisions based solely on what may be fiscally beneficial to the Department yet devastating to our members. We review new policy drafts, sit on committees and boards that Metro deems necessary and that ultimately decide your fate in instances from vehicle accidents to critical uses of force. We are your voice, your advocate, and in some cases, your lifeline. We are busy untangling the messes our administration often creates that usually negatively impact our members. We spend time with elected officials to attempt to influence them to vote for “more cops,” support stronger laws protecting police and corrections, and maintain the pension and benefits that all of us have worked so hard to achieve. The bottom line is this: When there is a problem, members call the LVPPA, and we work diligently to get it resolved. When there is an officer-involved shooting, the LVPPA is there making sure you are protected legally, administratively and ethically. This list goes on, and I’m sure I’ve made my point.
The LVPPA and LVPMSA, on behalf of the membership, are suing LVMPD in federal court, declaring SB 241 as unconstitutional as it is applied to representative associations. We are seeking an injunction to stop Metro from what is nothing less than an attempt at union busting. We have also been following and support the case that PPACE filed with the Employee Management Relations Board and have submitted amicus briefs in anticipation of the decision we are all hoping for. We are lobbying hard to change the makeup of the Nevada Assembly and Senate for the 2017 session so that we can seek legislative relief at that level as well.
So what’s the plan to make sure that the LVPPA continues to exist and do what it does now and in the future? There isn’t one plan, but I’d like to share a plan that I think may work best for the membership. Other substandard plans include increasing dues; depleting reserves; reducing service and benefits; farming out responsibility to outsiders unfamiliar with our issues, inexperienced and likely unreliable; or closing up shop altogether. Ultimately, you, the member, will decide where, what and how the LVPPA is and will be in the near future. This plan is one of several that we will roll out and ask you to decide in the near future. Keep in mind, this is only a rough plan at this point, but clearly stands above and beyond the rest. No matter what, you will always have the final say.
We each earn four hours of sick time each pay period. That equals a total of 104 hours of sick time each year that we are employed. With the exception of a very few, our sick hours are “capped” at 1,250 hours that can be considered for “cash value” upon retirement. Assuming one did not use any sick time, it would take 12 years to reach the “cap.” Everyone hired after July 1, 1988, is offered zero cash value upon retirement of anything over 1,250 hours. Hours that one may accumulate above and beyond the 1,250 cap may only be used if every other time bank has been depleted due to a catastrophic event for yourself or a loved one. In essence, the vast majority of us will simply lose the time above and beyond the 1,250-hour cap during our careers. We have a plan to capture a small portion of that time, which likely will be wasted anyhow, and put it to good use to “pay” for the time used for permanently assigned LVPPA representatives. Allow me to explain.
If we modified the contract to reflect that if everyone earns four hours of sick time each pay period and 15 minutes (that’s .25 hours) were to be put into an Association hour bank, one would essentially earn and accumulate a net 3.75 hours instead of four hours each pay period. The difference to an individual would mean that instead of accumulating 104 hours each year, one would accumulate 97.5 hours. In the grand scheme, instead of taking 12 years to reach the 1,250-hour cap, it would take you 12.8 years to reach the cap. To put it yet another way, donating 15 minutes of sick time each pay period to ensure the LVPPA can continue to function and operate would delay reaching the maximum 1,250 cap by approximately 9.5 months over a career.
Some people may wonder what would happen if they do get sick and need those few extra hours during their careers. The contract already addresses catastrophic leave and each member is eligible to receive 160 hours of “cat leave” in his or her career. In a 25-year career, one would have donated approximately 160 hours at .25 hours a pay period to fund the LVPPA full-time officers. When it’s put that way, one can see even if the worst-case scenario were to happen to you during your career and you actually needed the 160 hours, it’s given right back to you and you’re whole.
I’m hoping that each of you reading this will give this some serious thought and consideration. Ask yourself and your peers, why wouldn’t this plan work and what is really the better alternative? I don’t believe that we all got where we are by the grace of God himself. From time to time, you have to step back and make a calculated decision, take some risks and have a little faith. We are but one ship with many people on a rough sea. The opposition is counting on you to waffle. I’m asking you to join us to fight, organize and come together like no other body of law enforcement professionals ever has. Let’s show them solidarity like never before!
As always, be safe!
Police Officer Mark Chaparian