Posted by: Jennifer Foley Posted date: September 26, 2016
— By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor
During his transition into the POLC/GELC Director’s position, Rob Figurski recognized his predecessor’s accomplishments to strengthen and expand the organization.
“I want to thank Richard (Weiler) for all his dedication to the Labor Council and wish him the best in his retirement,” Figurski said.
Figurski, a former POLC/GELC Labor Representative, was appointed Director by the POLC/GELC Executive Committee. He spent months training with Weiler and officially assumed the Director’s position in August when Weiler retired after 32 years on the job. During the transition period, Figurski completed contract negotiations to finalize agreements while training his Labor Representative replacement, Chris Watts.
“I’m still servicing my groups. I’m trying to get (Watts) to as many units as I can to introduce him,” Figurski said earlier this year. “On top of it, we have contracts we’re negotiating. It’s been difficult to try to do both things and soak up as much of Richard’s knowledge as I can.”
To say Figurski, 67, has been busy this year is a vast understatement and a validation that the Executive Committee chose a candidate who is well-prepared to take the reigns of two unions and lead its members into the future.
Figurski’s 20-plus years of union experience began when he was a Detroit Police Officer. He served 12 years with the Warren Police Department and was elected and served as steward and board member of the Warren Police Officer’s Association (WPOA) for several years and WPOA’s President for five years handling union negotiations, grievances and arbitrations. Figurski retired as a Patrolman, spending the last five years of his career with Warren working solely for the WPOA as Union President.
“I handled a lot of different situations in Warren, handling the finances and negotiating their contracts,” Figurski said of the 200-plus member unit. “I was also on the union board prior to becoming president. I handled a number of grievances dealing with the Chief and city officials. I was involved in a lot of grievance procedures and civil litigation and dealing with the police administration. (The POLC/GELC) is a larger organization, but same concepts.”
Not missing a beat, he retired from Warren PD in late 2009 and accepted the POLC/GELC Labor Representative position in early 2010. “We had a relationship through MAPO with POLC and Chester (Kuleza) talked to me about coming over here and I talked to Richard and one thing led to another,” Figurski said. “John Viviano, who was the Rep., was retiring, so I accepted the position.”
Some of the issues Figurski will focus on initially include retaining and obtaining more membership, which is something the POLC and GELC have been working on lately. “At the same time we’re growing, we will be continuing to provide excellent service to our members,” he said. “I will be working with the board and our Reps and doing the best for the Labor Council overall.”
He wants to update technology to improve communication with members. Figurski said he’d like to see contracts more easily accessible through computer software, where bargaining agreements could be downloaded. He also wants to address more issues on the Labor Council website and via email to the members.
“My goal is getting more and more members and updating technology as much as we can in different areas … being able to respond better and communicate better with the membership throughout the state,” Figurski said, adding he plans to put a face with the name of the new Director. “I’m planning on keeping up with our Reps and all their units, traveling throughout the state and following up with our Reps, making sure we provide the best service for everybody.”
He will continue Weiler’s legislative efforts as an active Michigan Association of Police Organization (MAPO) board member and attending other police agency meetings in support of law enforcement statewide and nationwide. “I’m sure that in the beginning I’m not going to be on all those committees,” Figurski said. “That’s for them to decide.” Either way, Figurski plans to stay up-to-date on the issues and support the priorities of POLC members in Lansing.
Figurski’s words of wisdom for Watts: “Service, service, service,” he said. “Members call and if you’re tied up with something, get back to them immediately. If you don’t know the answer, find out.”
He said as far as contracts go, always put yourself in their shoes to negotiate the best contract for them. “Sometimes you might say to them, ‘there’s a better way.’ But they’re the ones that have to work with and live with situations in their department. Suggest to them what you think is best, and then after that, let them decide what’s best and go from there,” Figurski said.
The married father of four grown children and nine grandchildren, wants members to know his level of commitment to the organization. “I’ll always work for the best interest of everybody at the Labor Council and try to provide the best service I can for everyone,” Figurski said.