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Hurley Public Safety ecstatic about switch to POLC

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: March 29, 2017

— By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor

Hurley Hospital Public Safety Officers in Flint are raving about their experience with the POLC. The 50-member group voted to become POLC members in April 2016 and it’s been nothing short of an amazing turnaround for their unit, said Ken Schehr, the Local Union President.

Formerly represented by POAM, they voted to change representation 90 days before their contract expired June 30. “As soon as we voted in POLC, POAM pretty much dumped us and didn’t want our last two months of dues,” Schehr said. “They were a nightmare to deal with.”

“(POLC Labor Rep.) Hal (Telling) and Lloyd Whetstone and Nancy (Ciccone) all met us and basically presented everything they would do to represent us — how any one of the officers could call Hal at any time. That was huge for us to get to that point and see what you guys had to offer,” Schehr said. “I’m from corporate security. The goal is to make the department better, more professional.”

Under the POAM, he said that wasn’t possible. “It was absurd. Two years without bylaws, without one financial statement, we didn’t have meetings, everything was in the dark,” he said.

Schehr said the membership was more than ready for a change as most employees felt the POAM was only representing a select few officers. The POAM changed the election time at midnight and the next day when members thought they had 12-hour voting time, they actually only had a two to three hour window to cast their votes. This was how the Union kept some members from having their votes counted.

“They recruited six people they needed that day, gave them board positions and said, ‘we had a vote, this is what we’re doing,’” Schehr said. “They basically ran the union by keeping everyone in the dark.”

When it was time to vote on a contract, POAM waited until two days before Christmas and told members they had a tentative agreement and had one day to review it and vote ‘Yes’ if they wanted the same benefits. “We had to force a ‘Yes’ to vote for the contract, whether we agreed or not,” Schehr said.

“They were representing a half dozen employees and putting false papers on all the good officers.” Schehr said. “Karen (Whitman) and I sent 20 emails giving a dozen or more examples as to how they were picking and choosing (which employees) they support. One of the former (local) union board members used false accusations as a way to intimidate officers and force negotiations with management.”

Then, the tide began to turn. Schehr and Karen Whitman were elected to represent the local unit in November 2015 with over 75 percent of members in favor and took office Jan. 1, 2016. “Myself and my bargaining chair were elected into office and we immediately made the move to POLC,” Schehr said. “That was the beginning of the change which really made everybody happy. With me being President, my vote means no more than anybody else’s. That’s the way it should be.”

Now that the POLC represents them, everything has changed … for the better. “We ratified (the contract) by 86 percent votes in favor,” Schehr said. “Hal was awesome in negotiations.”

Telling led the team, negotiating a five-year contract for the new unit with raises in the first three years and wage reopeners in years four and five. Nothing was removed from their healthcare and retirement benefits. “They were brought up to market value in the first year,” Telling said. “In the second year, they will receive a 1-1/2 percent raise
followed by a one percent raise in the third year with a half percent lump sum bonus. The group also received an extra personal day and the ability to convert sick time to vacation if they want.”

“After a very large jump to market in our first year, our last two years by themselves were more than double the amount of raises we received over the entire course of the last three-year contract,” Schehr said. “Everybody saw how much more professional they were than POAM. You could see Hal knew everything about union law and healthcare law; we got our best contract ever,” Schehr said, adding that the longest contract they ever signed in the past was a three-year

In their first five-year contract, Schehr said, “The first three years we received a higher percentage of raises than
we’ve ever had in three years.”

For the first time, they are receiving a clothing allowance. “Now they have a clothing allowance of $360 for new hires and $200 for each employee every year after,” Telling said. “Part time gets $180 for clothing the first year, and $125 each year thereafter.”

On the eastern side of the state, Hurley is the most northern trauma center. “We get survival fights daily, our NIC unit is one of the top in the state,” Schehr said. “We get every Genesee County inmate (who needs hospital care). It’s a very unique hospital and you see the worst there and because of that you need the best security. We’re trying to grow and POLC definitely is the place we needed to be to do that.”

Not only were employees fed up with POAM, so was the Employer. “We’re similar to a police department,” Schehr said. For us, our community is the hospital staff and it’s also the patients and visitors. Mainly, we work hand in hand with doctors and nurses. I knew you had to build a partnership with management.”

Telling knew exactly how to build that partnership. “The hospital staff is ecstatic with how the department is run now,” Schehr said. “We got the best contract we have ever had in the history of the hospital. It was a lot of work, but we did it. We rallied the troops and got you guys in, thank God.”

Not only are the benefits better, the department is rejuvenated with more full-time positions and less part-timers with limited availability. During POAM’s reign, the department needed 35 part-timers to fill their rotations since they were down to 21 full-timers. In the short amount of time since the POLC took over, there are now 27 full-time officers, which exceeds the number of part-time positions. “We’re getting ready to jump to 30 full-time spots. In the last six months we’ve added six full-time and hopefully we’ll add three more full-time,” Schehr said. “Instead of needing 35 part timers, we’ll only need 20.”

That is a great benefit to the department as a whole. “Now we can keep the part-time that are exceptional,” he said. “It works out for the best because we get to keep the best part-timers to support the full-time staff as it grows.”

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