I hope all of you are staying safe and your families are doing well. It is times of uncertainty like this that show the value of being a government employee. We may not be paid the best, and we may not have the best schedule, but we have a higher degree of employment security than most.
The implementation of our CBA and the JLA’s that accompany the CBA have not been trouble free. This is not surprising, since the former management team was disconnected from reality when it came to basic employment law. Luckily, we find ourselves working with a new management team that appears to be more pro-employee. This does not mean we will always agree. It does mean that we can discuss issues and not take our disagreements personally. It’s business. We will continue to work on those issues with the current management team and will be looking at ways to improve language as we launch into the next round of bargaining.
Many of you reached out with concerns over how overtime was calculated for back pay in the 17/19 agreement. The bargaining team reached out to the state to address the issue. In short, the state maintains that they paid the overtime out in accordance with the contract. We disagree. Unfortunately, the talks between the WLEA and the state did not reach a satisfactory conclusion and the issue was referred to Attorney MacGillis. The state was served with a summons and has until June 18th to respond. Attorney MacGillis has been in contact with the state and is handling this issue going forward. This is not a guaranteed win for us. However, we would take fighting and losing, over ignoring an issue that is this important. We have several options when it comes to our disagreements with the state. We can accept what they say and lose every time, or we can fight and try to win. The only way we have a chance of making a difference is to fight for it.
To date, we have had good luck regarding our personnel and Covid. I want to stress the importance of taking care of yourselves.
On April 15th, Gov. Evers signed AB1038 into law, which provides some protection if we are exposed to Covid-19. It was initially proposed to be a broad presumptive causation bill, which would have meant that employees WOULD NOT have to prove a direct causal relationship between your infection and the workplace. Last minute amendments to the bill in the legislature gutted the presumptive causation language. It is now on YOU to show that you’ve encountered someone who was a carrier of Covid while carrying out your duties for the state. The latest numbers I’ve seen show about 35% of carriers of the virus can be asymptomatic, so that could prove impossible to show. Effectively it makes the states most likely argument that you contracted the virus at the Piggly Wiggly almost ironclad.
What does this mean? Well, obviously be careful. If you think it’s overblown and take a cavalier attitude, then that’s on you. I will err on the side of caution. I am not concerned that I will catch the virus. I am concerned that I catch the virus and risk the health of the folks I care about. I’m going to continue to be cautious to protect them.
We have had two cases that I know of where we have had employees exposed or possibly exposed. These types of interactions need to be documented in the unfortunate event that an employee does become infected in order to help rebut the states Piggly Wiggly claim.
Trooper arrested an individual for a felony warrant. During the pre-incarceration medical exam, the offender had an elevated temperature and a cough. Offender was then transported by our trooper to the hospital for a Covid test. The employee wisely completed a first report of injury and the Request for Leave of Absence with Pay Due to Injury form that is required for a 230.36 claim. This claim was approved and our employee, to date, is healthy.
Troopers came into contact with a subject on a routine traffic stop. I’m unsure exactly how things progressed, but the troopers had extended contact with the subject, and their vehicle. The offender was ultimately found to have probation issues and drug offenses. During contact, the subject told the troopers that they had TESTED POSITIVE for Covid-19 several days prior. This was confirmed with the subject’s P&P agent, and the Health Department.
There is an MOU between WLEA and DPM, that was agreed upon April 1st. The MOU deals with administrative leave and Covid-19. I would encourage all of you to read it and be familiar with it. Management is not going to encourage the use of it, based on what transpired with the above incident. It is up to us to take care of ourselves.
It seems that some of us are operating under the impression that we have a constitutional right to do and say what we want on social media. If you’re a random person, then this is true for the most part. YOU are not a random person. You are a public figure whether you are on or off duty. It is incumbent upon us as an agency, and as individuals, to maintain the appearance of neutrality before the law. Across the country, there are numerous cases where senior LEO’s were terminated based completely on social media postings they made while off duty. In most of these posts, they did not identify that they were LEO’s – but someone who knew of their profession complained to their employers. The employers launched investigations. These investigations lead the agencies to believe that their continued employment caused harm to the public view of the agency. The employees were terminated. This is 100% legal and has been reviewed in Federal Courts across the country.
I encourage all of you to avoid social media postings. This would include “phantom accounts”. We have not had an issue here recently and I hope to continue that trend.
The new bargaining team going forward will consists of; Chad Thompson (WLEA President), Dan Restrepo (WLEA Vice-President), Troy Larsen (member vote), Dan Miller (member vote), David Marquardt (WLEA Board selection) and Attorney MacGillis.
Everyone has issues that they would like to have addressed in the workplace. To help gather and organize these ideas I ask that you send them to email@example.com. The bargaining team will then compile these concerns/ideas, and work to address them. Keep in mind, these concerns/ideas need to consist of something more than, “we need more time off”. That doesn’t really help. When you submit a concern/idea I ask that you include a well-written and thought-out reason why the issue needs to be addressed. Any supporting documentation from other agencies or studies is very helpful. It is your issue, tell us why it matters! Any issue that the team addresses needs to be presented to the state with strong, persuasive reasons why that item needs to be changed. Building a case often requires a great deal of research on our part. “It’s BS” and “just because” are not persuasive arguments for the state.
Local Agency Contracts
It is no secret that DSP lags our brothers and sisters in law enforcement in many areas when it comes to contracts. This is due, in large part, because other agencies can take their contracts to interest arbitration when their employer is being difficult. Their contracts often contain useful ideas and different ways of addressing similar issues. If you have access to the latest and greatest contracts in PDF or Word from your local PD’s and SO’s please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org as well. I will add to the contract request that you submit any schedules that local agencies work that you like. Again, we need details. How do they deal with vacation, training, coverage issues and the pile of other issues that have prevented us from changing the schedule in a meaningful way.
Join Labor Agreements (JLAs)
Our first meeting with management for the 19/21 bargaining session is scheduled for June 24th. I can tell you now, there will be nothing groundbreaking in this meeting. We do not know at this time if it will be in person or over Skype. This meeting will simply be about introductions and, at most, it may allow us to exchange goals, and maybe float some ideas on areas that one or both of the parties may like to change.
Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA)
We currently have three dates on the calendar for master sessions: July 17th, August 11th, and August 14th. Originally, the plan had been to focus on financial aspects of the CBA to continue to gain ground on our peers and not get bogged down by language. Unfortunately, with the current hit to tax revenues, that will be a more difficult task than what we had envisioned. We are not going to give up, but we may be forced to change course. I still want to have a tentative agreement waiting for the legislature when they return in January of 2021. Our goal is to get away from the 4-5 year spans without a negotiated agreement. That isn’t good for us or the agency.
Now that we are getting back into actual meetings with the state, updates will be coming out more often. There may be little substance to the update, but I hope to at least let you know that we did meet and to keep you apprised of future meetings.