Rebuilding the Solidarity of the APOA Part 2
Rehires versus First-Timers: Why the Division and How do we Fix it…
It’s one of those topics everybody has either talked about or listened-in on a conversation about for the past several years. The opinions are strong, divided, and often based on an individual’s past experience, either good or bad. It is a topic which has lead to a noticeable division on our Department and inside our Union (and don’t you find it ironic the word “union” is used here). I’m talking of course about the Return-to Work program instituted approximately 10 years ago. You know these officers by the more common reference “Rehire.”
Some officers say it frequently: “F the Rehires!” “Send ‘em all back to the field.” I also get to hear rehires talk about how the union screwed them and no one cares about them. As the bid approaches, I’ve heard strong opinions from both sides about return-to-work officers.
Below are my opinions. I know I risk upsetting many people and I do not claim to have all of the answers but this is an issue we must address as a union so that we can be, a UNION.
So what caused the division among return-to-work and first timers?
When APD first began taking advantage of the State law to allow retired PERA retirees to return to work, they did so like many other agencies to supplement manpower. As the Department either reached out to some of these individuals or had those individuals approach them for jobs, special considerations were made. A separate bid list was established for these employees. Why you ask? Well some of them wanted to come back and were willing to don the uniform, they just weren’t willing to have their seniority start all over again with the new guys, i.e. they didn’t want to show up to the bid and chose between graveyard or, well graveyard. They wanted days with weekends off. The Department accommodated this request because they wanted the numbers. Unfortunately, the APOA was not blameless in this either, the union allowed two bid lists to be established.
This was problematic. Not only were two “classes” of employees created, there was division among the two because the first time officers realized their own bid seniority was not improving as fast with this system and some spots on days or swing with weekends off were held out from the regular bid in order to accommodate the rehire bid. This was clearly not fair to the first time officers hired before the rehires who were now getting better spots.
Gasoline was then thrown on the fire: the Department (and sadly the union) allowed return-to-workers to come back directly into “inside” positions. The normal line of events for a first time officer was of course to be in the field and then test for positions as they were circularized. Not for this other class of employees though. Some of them, not all mind you, were allowed to simply “rehire” back into a detective position, support position, or admin position. Rightly so, first time officers were upset at this travesty and eventually the union put a stop to the practice.
The anger over the discrimination against the first time officers remained and contributed to some officers’ extreme dislike of rehires.
While it was always a bad, dividing practice, to have two separate bid lists, it became worse when the State changed the law allowing retirees to come back to work. APD quit hiring these individuals and those remaining on the rehire bid list were then stuck in seniority. Now the shoe was on the other foot. The rehires did not see their own ability to get better shifts improve with time on the department and they grew to hate the separate bid lists.
How Do we Fix the Division?
The fact is, everyone should have always been on the same bid list. The practice of allowing two bid lists was discriminatory against the first-time officers originally. Now, the return-to-workers believe it to be discriminatory against them because they cannot ever move up the list. While I believe it to be ironic that rehires feel discriminated against by the very system their predecessors created so as to have a special status, the fact is it does need to be fixed because it never should have existed to begin with.
Secondly, regardless of anyone’s personal beliefs on return-to-work, double dipping, etc., all of these men and women are police officers. They have a secondary source of income, but that is really no different than someone retiring from another job and becoming a police officer, or owning a secondary business, or whatever. Some of the hardest working, and most passionate officers I know are rehires. Their status of being a “rehire” does not change the risks they take and, frankly, there are benefits to bringing back someone with experience. I, like many others, am disappointed with how the City and the Union together handled this issue originally, but I think we can settle our differences.
I encourage all members to get over the mistakes of the past. No one should have been hired directly into an inside job and no second bid list should ever have been established. Having said that, these were mistakes that are in the past and cannot be completely undone. All we can do is move forward. There is a benefit to everyone to merging the bid lists. Some officers will feel that it hurts them because they might get pushed down the overall list by 10 or 20 spots. However, those same 10 or 20 spots will no longer be held off the available spots when it comes time to bid. We have plenty of other battles folks. It seems to me that any one of us, if we were stuck with no freedom to ever bid for a better shift, would want something to change.
It is time for us to stand together as a union and leave the past in the past….