Contract Negotiation Preparations
-- Step One --
BY DON K. RUIZ
NAPSO/CWA LOCAL 9110, LABOR
The holiday season is upon us and this normally brings about a mind-set of more time spent with family and friends and if you, as an association activist, have done your job in preparation for the future then you can truly afford to rest during these festive times. If you have not then there is no time to relax now.
But you may be asking what should I have been doing previous to today…? Well, in the world of contract negotiations there is the old adage that you begin preparation for your next contract negotiations the following day of signing your last contract and this is exactly true. I always tell my members “now that we have signed this contract it’s time to prepare for the next”. I, as a standard practice, leave my association leaders with “homework” which usually entails meetings and activities with political leaders and more importantly meetings with local service groups.
In Nevada, NRS mandates that notification to enter into collective bargaining be accomplished by February 1 of an expiring contract year. As I write this it is December, which doesn’t leave much time to prepare, if you haven’t been doing so all along.
If you are new to your association leadership there is a lot to learn-so let’s begin. First of all, congratulations on winning your popularity vote, but now the work starts here. If you sit here reading this and you have no conceptual thought as to what I am going to talk about next, then break out your notepad and let’s begin STEP 1:
LEADERSHIP is defined as a person or group of people that guides or directs a group. A leader can be a positive or negative action. In other words you can lead your group to a lessor societal position then they currently sit or a greater position then they currently sit. If you elect to just sit back and go through the motions then you are doing no one any favors and this will become apparent to you when contract negotiations come around and you get your members something less than they expected. You accepted the nominations of those individuals and as such you have an inherent responsibility to those members to represent them for the advancement of their position as association members.
Your job as an association leader will never be more evident than during contract negotiations. As an association leader you will be confronted with multiple issues relating to disciplinary matters, but you have a comprehensive legal defense plan through the Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers, and inevitably you will pass the buck over to the experts in those disciplinary matters. The resulting factors of those disciplinary issues are managed by the legal defense experts and their strategies of defense to protect the members, but during contract negotiations you, as a bargaining committee, are the leaders and your preparations and strategies are what matters.
We, the NAPSO Legal Defense Plan administrators, routinely receive accolades for our defense strategies and inevitable legal defense “wins” in saving members jobs, but have you ever thought that a very important factor in this is our formed relationships with those decision makers in your employment issues. This same thought should be of maximum importance during contract negotiation preparations. A large factor in obtaining the most for your membership lies within the relationship you build with your city or county leaders.
Let me put it this way, if you were going to buy a car and you have two options, go to a dealership that employees a salesman friend of yours or go to a dealership and contact a complete stranger salesman…who do you think is going to give you a better deal with less of the hassle?
It is extremely important to have your city council members or county commissioners know who you are and just as important that you get to know who your elected leaders are. You can only do this by getting out and meeting them. The worst thing you can do is sit back and base your thoughts and evaluations on newspaper clippings and other individual evaluations. Enough said on this, the lesson here is to get out and meet your political leaders; after all, we are going to be asking these very same people to ratify on your contract demands.
As you make you visitations with your political leaders you will quickly learn who is pro-law enforcement and pro-labor. Spend time with those council members and commissioners that support your efforts and cause. I was taught as a young law enforcement association advocate that in politics you support your supporters and you punish your offenders. Political leaders who speak out against your department and its personnel will either have had a negative personal scenario or is grand standing for votes based on his or her constituents or voting district. The funny part of all this is that I have yet to meet any officer or deputy who attend a police academy and became a law enforcement professional just because they wanted to offend the innocent and violate people’s rights. That thought doesn’t exist. If there is a scenario that entails a bad response by law enforcement, it almost always reverts to a lack of staffing, equipment and/or training, which reverts back to elected leaders failing to attend to the needs of those law enforcement professionals that they employee. If they truly wanted to protect the citizens within their respective districts they would adequately staff, equip and train all law enforcement personnel so as to prevent any such issue from arising, not just come out and blast their law enforcement professionals in the press because they want a few votes. If you are dealing with a political leader that routinely speaks against your department, then evaluate what must change to provide for a better working relationship with that position. It, often times, means replacing that individual with an advocate. However, look into the matter, it may be another factor which is the message they are receiving from your department heads that are leading to this response.
As mentioned above, the additional factor may be your Police Chief or County Sheriff. Sheriff’s and Chief’s routinely have meetings with these very same community leaders, why do you think this happens? And do you honestly believe that these law enforcement administrators are going to announce to these community leaders that they are terrible bosses and that their department is running afoul…So if only these Chiefs and Sheriffs are speaking to these respective community leaders then these very same leaders have no knowledge of any insufficient matters concerning your department and your membership. Even if you happen to be working for a very good Police Chief or Sheriff, you will be doing him or her a favor by addressing those issues that are important to us as an association and them as department heads.
As you begin your regular meeting schedule with your respective community leaders you will form a professional relationship that will allow you to state your wants and needs as a group, both as a department and association. Let those elected leaders know how intertwined your association is in the community, which brings about my second point: Community Involvement.
Community involvement is an absolutely huge factor in obtaining a good contract on behalf of your association members. If an elected official is aware of your associations close bond with its community they will inevitably understand that your association has a direct correlation to what is most important to them: RE-ELECTION.
As association leaders I cannot stress this enough that you must interact with your community beyond, issuing tickets and taking bad people to jail. An example of this is: What are you more familiar with the National Public Safety Football League or the National Football League? Both play football and both get paid. The difference is the NFL routinely interacts with you because of its media outlets, etc. You have formed a relationship with the NFL and because of this you buy its products. Even when they go on strike we demand that the players get paid more, even if that means we pay more for tickets, more for merchandise, more in commercial expense which cost us more at the grocery store. This phenomena can only happen because of the NFL’s marketing strategies to familiarize itself with its constituent, you the fan.
Well, we should follow this strategy and utilize our marketability by interacting with our community throughout the year and more importantly publish our good will efforts for the community via the press outlets. We should attend to all youth sporting events opening days and ask that we speak as a dignitary to all parents in attendance. We should be addressing local service clubs on a regular basis and don’t be afraid to Let them know the perils that their law enforcement professionals are facing and the reasons why we are facing these issues. If an elected official has a community event planned, as an association we should be in attendance, either as a dignitary or as an event sponsor by having a booth present, which avails citizens the opportunity to communicate with its law enforcement employees.
Believe it or not, but this entire process is “PRE-CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS” If you begin this very first step and carry it through to the bargaining table, you will have, in essence, already did the work for a successful contract. The actual meeting at the table is just a formality.
Remember one important fact: As an association leader you are the head of a business. As an association leader you are not a public servant, but you are an agent of those who serve the public. This is business, make no mistake about it.
If you have any questions regarding contractual issues and how to better prepare please call a NAPSO representative today. Return often to the NAPSO web site as we will have STEP TWO in Contract Negotiation Preparations published in the very near future.