CHICAGO, IL – Cash-strapped Chicago must pay $1 million in disputed overtime to 3,100 Chicago Police officers who protected the city during last year’s NATO Summit, an independent arbitrator has ruled.
Arbitrator Steven M. Bierig handed Fraternal Order of Police President Mike Shields a victory just when he needed it most — after apologizing to his membership for a paperwork mistake that threatens to cost rank-and-file Chicago Police officers their automatic right to a retroactive pay raise in 2012.
At issue is one of four class-action grievances filed by the FOP after a deftly handled summit of world leaders that could have been a disaster for Chicago, but instead gave the city a chance to shine on the world stage.
The dispute stemmed from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s decision not to pay officers time-and-a-half overtime pay.
The contract “unambiguously provides that an officer who works six or seven consecutive days in a work week shall be paid overtime for work performed on the sixth and seventh days,” Bierig ruled this week.
“The city violated the contract by failing to pay overtime to officers who worked a sixth or seventh day during the week of May 20,” 2012.
The Chicago Police Lieutenants’ Association contract has language that mirrors the FOP contract on time-and-a-half compensation for working a sixth or seventh consecutive day. In March, an arbitrator ruled against the city in the lieutenants’ quest for NATO overtime.
The FOP accused the city in June of concealing the lieutenants ruling in a “100 percent unethical” attempt to “screw Chicago Police officers out of $1 million.”
As it turned out, the city’s failure to disclose the lieutenants ruling to the FOP didn’t matter. Bierig was aware of it. In fact, he cited it in his own ruling.
City Hall had argued that, if an officer was paid overtime to work on a regular day off that had been canceled, paying that same officer time-and-a-half for working a sixth and seventh work day would be “pyramiding or payment of double overtime.”
City attorneys further argued that the same policy has been followed for other special events, including Taste of Chicago and the Chicago Marathon.
But Bierig ruled that the police contract “does not provide an exception for payment of sixth and seventh day overtime in weeks when officers are paid overtime for canceled regular days off.”
During the NATO Summit, Police Supt. Garry McCarthy canceled days off and ordered all 3,100 officers to work 12-hour shifts to devote extraordinary police resources to the gathering of world leaders and still provide a 15 percent increase in neighborhood police protection.
The NATO overtime tiff is certain to exacerbate tensions between the city and the FOP more than a year after the union’s contract with the city expired.
Shields said the overtime dispute should have been resolved before arbitration.
“I personally requested on several occasions that the superintendent grant this grievance,” Shields said of McCarthy, whose frontline leadership in helping to diffuse a potentially volatile confrontation with Black Bloc provocateurs turned him into a Chicago folk hero.
“Police officers who were out there doing the hard work were upset that they did not get their overtime pay and that the superintendent was taking all of the accolades. This is an issue that left a bad taste in police officers’ mouths in regard to their superintendent.”
The Chicago Sun-Times reported in March that Emanuel was using an embarrassing paperwork mistake that Shields made last year to deny rank-and-file police officers of their automatic right to a retroactive pay raise in 2012.
The move was widely viewed as the mayor’s attempt to get even with Shields for working to torpedo a four-year contract with police sergeants — tied to pension and retiree health-care reform — that Emanuel had hoped to use a road map to solve the city’s pension crisis.
Last month, Shields suffered a major blow in his effort to recoup from the paperwork mistake when the executive director of the Illinois Labor Relations Board dismissed the unfair labor practices complaint he filed against the city. Unfair labor practices complaints must be filed within six months of the alleged unlawful conduct. Like the contract termination letter, the complaint was filed too late.