Mayor Lori Lightfoot was accused Wednesday of “moving the goalposts” she put up less than three months ago in hopes of cutting a short-term deal with rank-and-file Chicago Police officers who have waited more than three years for a new contract.
During a May 29 meeting in the mayor’s office, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara said Lightfoot told him she wanted to negotiate the retroactive pay portion of the police contract “right away and get that off the financial books” this summer.
That’s precisely what she did this week with the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 — in a deal that will cost taxpayers $95 million in back pay — in exchange for increased health care contributions.
But with the anti-police movement triggered by the death of George Floyd gaining steam, Catanzara said Lightfoot has changed course.
“They said they’re gonna include four reforms along with money for the same time frame the firemen just got — through June of next year. … They want to attach conditions to it and poison pills which are gonna make it almost impossible,” Catanzara said Wednesday.
“They implied that one of them was getting rid of the sworn affidavit [paving the way for anonymous complaints against police officers]. That was not even discussed in the meeting with the mayor. For them to throw that in there is a clear attempt at encouraging members [to say]. `Oh my God. They’re talking about money. Let’s take this deal.’ We’re not even gonna present it to the membership if that’s in there.”
The mayor’s office fired back later Wednesday, saying Lightfoot “has been emphatically clear to President Catanzara that any agreement with the union — even a short-term agreement — must include the City’s accountability and reform proposals.”
That point was repeated in a letter to the FOP, according to Lightfoot’s office, so “it is disappointing to see him make false statements that are completely untethered from reality.”
Catanzara said he has not yet received the city’s financial offer. Nor does he know for certain what three other reforms the mayor’s negotiating team will demand.
“I said, `If the affidavit is gonna be one of `em, two of the other three better be lifting residency and repealing the prohibition to strike. You take away the strike clause and residency, then maybe we’ll talk about the sworn affidavit being gone,” the union president said.
Catanzara accused Lightfoot of establishing a double-standard for police officers and firefighters.
“They’re treating us entirely different, which is absolutely ridiculous. It still goes back to the original conversation. She talked about money. She wanted the money off the books with all of the other debt in one financial year to be done with it. And now, they’re moving the goalposts. Which makes her a liar. Point blank,” Catanzara said.
Catanzara said he thinks he knows why Lightfoot’s negotiating team abruptly changed course. He recalled the meeting he had with them just a few weeks ago.
“They had just gotten beaten up by the City Council the day before on the sergeants arbitration and aldermen complaining, `Why don’t you fight for this, that and the other thing.’ And [Jim Franczek, the city’s longtime police labor negotiator] goes, `We can’t go back there now and just present a financial package only,’” Catanzara said.
“I said, ‘No. You could. You just don’t want to because you’re a coward.’ Her attorney Mike Frisch jumped in and said [the promise of a money deal only] wasn’t an accurate recollection of the conversation. I told him I don’t appreciate being called a liar. I know what we discussed in that meeting. The money part of that conversation was separate from everything else. There were no conditions put on it.”
Lightfoot co-chaired the Task Force on Police Accountability, whose scathing indictment of the Chicago Police Department prompted the U.S. Justice Department to do the same after a federal investigation triggered by the police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
The task force demanded changes to a police contract that, it claimed, “codifies the code of silence” at CPD.
The City Council’s Black Caucus has threatened to block ratification of any police contract that continues to make it “easy for officers to lie” by giving them 24 hours before providing a statement after a shooting and that also prohibits anonymous complaints (by requiring sworn affidavits) and allows officers to change statements after reviewing video.
Lightfoot has been embroiled in a cold war with the FOP that turned into a deep freeze when the outspoken Catanzara was elected.
In their most recent battle, Lightfoot sent Catanzara a series of text messages calling him a “cartoon character” a “clown” and a “total fraud” after he wrote a letter to President Trump asking for federal help to stop the violence in Chicago.