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City Council approves eight-year police contract with 20% pay raise

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez was one of eight aldermen voting “no.” He said the contract does “little to nothing to ensure that there is accountability when false statements are made” by officers accused of misconduct.

Chicago City Council meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021.
The Chicago City Council convened Tuesday to consider approving a new contract with the Fraternal Order of Police, among other matters.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Chicago police officers rose above their anger at Mayor Lori Lightfoot to ratify a new contract that gives them a 20% pay raise over eight years, more than half of it retroactive.

On Tuesday, the City Council did the same, rising above bitter disappointment that the city did not take greater advantage of its opportunity to demand police reform. The final vote was 40 to 8.

“It’s not where all of us would like to be, but it’s definitely far from where we are,” Ald. Jason Ervin (29th), chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus said prior to the final vote.

Workforce Development Committee Chairman Susan Sadlowski-Garza (10th) warned her colleagues not to roll the dice.

“If this contract is voted down, we will be facing an unprecedented situation in the history of our city. Our tentative agreements will be void. Our gains in police accountability will disappear. Our financial obligations to our officers will continue to grow. And we will be putting these negotiations into the hands of an arbitrator who makes decisions without consulting this body,” she said.

Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) was one of the eight aldermen who voted “no.”

The contract does “little to nothing to ensure that there is accountability when false statements are made” by officers accused of misconduct, he said, or that they provide accurate statements within 24 hours.

“Have we forgotten the cases of Adam Toledo, of Anjanette Young or Laquan McDonald? Those are the cases that should be considered when we talk about this contract,” Sigcho-Lopez said.

Jim Franczek, the city’s longtime chief labor negotiator, acknowledged the city did not get the requirement it sought compelling officers to disclose secondary employment or hours worked at those second jobs. It also did not cap those moonlighting hours.

But, he argued, the city won “the most accountability reform measures that have ever been had” in an FOP contract.

“Some people might say that’s a pretty low bar. But we made over 30 separate changes. Any reasonable observer would say that’s a fairly significant accomplishment,” he said.

Franczek noted the Illinois General Assembly strengthened the city’s hand by abolishing the requirement that complaints against police officers include a sworn affidavit. But the city’s contract goes further on that front, he said.

“Before a hearing can take place under state law, the complainant has got to be disclosed. Under our collective bargaining agreement, it’s not just the anonymous complaint. It’s also permitting someone to not disclose their identity if they don’t want to,” he said.

Now that the Council has signed off on the new deal, the city is on the hook for $377.6 million for four years of back pay. That’s how long police officers have been waiting for a pay raise during what was the longest labor stalemate in Chicago history.

Retroactive paychecks will range from $18,000 to $36,000, depending on seniority and retroactive overtime pay that will add as much as 20% to that amount; and back duty availability pay that means up to $7,600 per officer.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot knew it was coming, but nevertheless set aside just $103.3 million for back paychecks in her 2021 budget. The city plans to cover the rest by refinancing $1 billion in existing debt at reduced interest rates later this year. That’s expected to generate $232 million in savings.

The remaining $42.3 million will come from “corporate fund resources,” according to the mayor’s three-year financial plan.

The city still must find an additional $325 million to cover future costs of the contract. Even so, top mayoral aides have touted the contract for the “financial stability” it provides. It also guarantees labor peace until after the 2023 mayoral election.

Civic Federation President Laurence Msall is not so sure about the financial stability claim. Using savings from a debt refinancing “prudently matches one-time revenues to a one-time expense,” but “taking the savings up-front” will force the city to “either cut or find new sources of revenue,” Msall has said.

The contract calls for rank-and-file CPD officers to receive a 10.5% retroactive pay raise and 9.5% more through January 2025. The city has also agreed to increase so-called “duty availability pay” to $950 per quarter and the annual uniform allowance to $1,950.

Duty availability pay will be offered “retroactively” from July 2017 to all officers whose probation period has ended after 18 months. Going forward, that pay will be available after 18 months, instead of 42.

Rank-and-file police officers will be asked to absorb half the increase in health care contributions imposed on police sergeants and Chicago firefighters and paramedics. The rest of that increase will be postponed until July 1, 2022 to allow members to retire under the current levels: 2.2% at age 55, or 0% for those 60 and over.

Although the contract was four years in the making, the negotiations are not complete. Only “core accountability issues” have been resolved. More controversial disciplinary changes must still be negotiated and are likely to end up in arbitration.

“When there was an impasse, there were editorials saying police should embrace the accountability provisions that were in the sergeants’ contract,” said former mayoral challenger Paul Vallas, who served as the FOP’s lead negotiator. “That’s exactly what they did.”