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Police union makes financial-only counter-offer

Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara is demanding a 17% pay raise over four years—retroactive to June 30, 2017 — and half that amount for police officers who are allowed to live outside the city.

The union representing rank-and-file Chicago Police Department officers is demanding a 17% pay raise and resisting reforms.
Sun-Times file

The Fraternal Order of Police is demanding a 17% pay raise over four years — and half that amount for officers who are allowed to live outside the city — in a financial-only deal that includes none of the 40 disciplinary reforms demanded by Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

Last week, Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara stormed out of negotiations after Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s team offered his members the same 10% pay raise over four years awarded to Chicago firefighters in exchange for higher health care contributions, but tacked on 17 pages including 40 disciplinary reforms.

Catanzara was so insulted by the city’s offer and the conditions Lightfoot attached to it, he vowed to make a financial-only counter-offer and demand an up-or-down vote by the City Council.

Now, Catanzara has a new offer — minus the demand for an up-or-down Council vote.

His new offer would give a choice to Chicago police officers who have long chafed at the city’s residency rule: Take the full 17% — with all but 3% retroactive — and continue to live in the city. Or, accept half that amount and be free to move to the suburbs.

“We want to be treated the same as the sergeants,” Catanzara said, noting that union settled on the financial aspect before ending up in arbitration over disciplinary changes.

“When do we get our life back? If they want to treat us like rented mules, well then, start paying us like rented mules. We’re not gonna sit there and just be slaves.”

Catanzara said the city’s chief labor negotiator Jim Franczek told him he could not go to the City Council and argue for a financial-only package that did not also include disciplinary changes in response to the demand for police reform in Chicago and across the nation that followed the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

“Which was baloney. He was too afraid to do it. ... They don’t want to get yelled at by the aldermen. Oh, boo-hoo-hoo. They always try to take the easiest path thinking like there’s no other options. Well, we’re not rolling over and playing dead anymore,” he said.

The mayor’s office issued a statement in response to Catanzara’s comments. It read, in part:

“Since their very first meeting, Mayor 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. This administration has concluded collective bargaining agreements with every single union except the FOP, who have now gone 1,182 days without a contract for their members up through and including today. We are not going to be baited into negotiating in the press, nor will we entertain political stunts and false narratives. ... Following their proposal, the City’s negotiating team has reached out to the FOP for a date to continue negotiations and we have yet to hear back.”

Michael Frisch, senior advisor and legal counsel to Lightfoot, fired off a letter to Catanzara after last week’s negotiating session, accusing the FOP president of sabotaging the talks with unreasonable financial demands and a tone-deaf response on police reform.

“We remain committed to working together towards a fair contract, but will never retreat from the reforms that are essential to restoring legitimacy and accountability,” Frisch wrote.

“It is clear that you are totally misreading this moment, the demands of the consent decree and the needs of the public.”

On Thursday, Catanzara said if Lightfoot wants to get rid of sworn affidavits and pave the way for anonymous complaints against police officers, she can seek those changes through arbitration.

“You can get your discipline conversation after we get our money,” he said.

“She doesn’t desperately need [reforms]. She desperately wants it because she’s trying to capitulate to the loud voices….That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the majority voices because I can tell you — the silent majority is getting louder and louder,” Catanzara said.

“People are sick and tired of this lawlessness. They think the police are doing a damn good job. They’re not the criminals that the mayor and other politicians in this city want to try and make them out to be.”

Last week, Lightfoot’s budget director told aldermen the Chicago Police Department has 847 sworn vacancies that could be reduced to chip away at a $1.25 billion shortfall in the city’s 2021 budget.

Catanzara said Thursday that makes zero sense “during a historic summer of shootings and deaths” in Chicago.

“We already have districts that don’t have enough manpower because they keep creating these roving units. The average citizen is now less safe because there’s less police officers in the districts where they live,” Catanzara said.

“Now, you’re gonna say, `We’re not gonna replace those men and women when they retire.’ How does that make any sense whatsoever given the crime in Chicago right now?”

Chicago police officers have waited more than three years for a new contract and the retroactive pay raise that comes with it. Their last contract expired on June 30, 2017.