On July 14, 2016, at our Special Open Meeting called for by our Constitution and By-Laws, I explained to the approximate 260 (almost 1/3 of our total active membership) in attendance that I needed the entire membership to guide me in the direction COBANC is to go, moving forward, regarding our contract situation, by voting yes or no on the memorandum of agreement.
Friday, August 12, 2016
I need direction because the stakes are too high. We are faced with the possibility of actually ending up with less than we were offered during our last round of negotiations. The probability of gaining anything with the Legislature is very, very low because eight court unions before us took a package that is arguably worse than our offer. The other three unions without a contract, have shown no interest in forming a coalition with COBANC as their memberships are very specialized [In the Officer and Clerks series only] We have 64 different job titles. Then there is the approximate quarter of a million dollars that impasse would cost us; having the Legislature address just the 2011 portion of our contract, again with the almost certainty that they would "award us" a zero; the 2-5 years it would take to get that probable zero; the possible loss of retiree retro compensation - because the Legislature does not have to even address the retirees, etc., etc., etc.
I said at that meeting that I needed the member's guidance because once we go down that path - all the way down that path, we will be "on hold" for all those years and have absolutely NO INPUT for the 2016 - 2021 contract negotiations. We would be stuck again in the cycle of having other unions decide our future compensation packages.
The Negotiation Committee negotiated the best contract we could. That was our job. It was not to erase the zeroes. We tried to erase them, but were unsuccessful. We demanded 3% across the board, then 2% across the board, then a geographic pay boost, then one-time Expanded duty pay of $1,500 for all the zero years, then a ten-year 14% plus $4,500 Expanded duty-pay and OCA said NO to every offer. We did our job and negotiated the best deal we could. It was then our job to present it to the membership for ratification - or rejection. And that's what we did. It was all about risk and reward.
This Monday, our contract ballots will be opened and counted. As of this writing I am told that we have almost 85% of all active COBANC members responding with their vote. Sometime late Monday afternoon we should know the results. The results will guide COBANC into the future.
If you want the contract to pass, and it doesn't, know now that COBANC's direction will be to declare or continue impasse and continue to prepare for fact finding and eventually the Legislature. This will not be like a school district vote and continue to be submitted, with the most minor of changes, until it passes. There will have to be MAJOR increases to the compensation package, as determined by the Negotiating committee and then the Board of Directors (Delegates and Executive Board) for even a chance that another contract would be presented to the membership for a vote.
And, the reverse is the same. If the contract is ratified, then the Negotiating committee will immediately request negotiation dates for our future contract. We will roll up our sleeves and find out, quickly, if OCA is willing to compensate us fairly, or if it is more of the same. It is so much more likely that we can get "a better deal" with almost the entire contract (time period) in front of us, then to already have the pattern set and try to change and improve what the weaker unions settled for years earlier.
Suffolk County President, Bill Dobbins, has requested to join a coalition with us so we can negotiate as a larger group - a group that would be larger than any single downstate court union on its own. I think this is a great idea but I am going to rely on my Executive Board and the rest of the Negotiating Committee to help make that decision. I have also reached out to two other union Presidents and requested a sit-down (again, if our contract is ratified) to see if they are interested in joining us and becoming an even larger coalition. One President has already said yes to a meeting to talk about it.
With 85% of the union voting we will know, sometime late Monday afternoon, what direction COBANC is moving in.
As President, I feel my job is to inform ALL members of ALL the pluses and minuses of major decisions, answer ALL questions, give my opinion, then my recommendation and then let democracy determine our destiny. COBANC is not a shy union. We have rejected contracts in the past. COBANC also has a very intelligent membership. Given ALL the facts our membership will know when to hold 'em - and when to fold 'em.
On Monday, August 15th, COBANC members will finally have their say. Then I along with the Executive Board, the Negotiating committee and the Board of Directors will know what the majority of the members want us to do - and we will do it. Just the way a democracy is supposed to work.
IF ANYONE WANTS TO VOLUNTEER THEIR TIME (A/L) TO OBSERVE THE COUNT ON MONDAY, EMAIL ME AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, AND I WILL SELECT TWO MEMBERS - ONE WILLING TO DECLARE THAT THEY ARE "FOR" THE CONTRACT AND ONE "AGAINST" THE CONTRACT AS "ALL DAY OBSERVERS". Important to note that you will have to turn over your cell phone to Election Chairperson, Janet Walsh, and NOT be able to use it or the COBANC phones all day until the count is completed and certified by the Election Committee.