CHA Security Officers Seek CCPA Help In Union Election

IPSN Oct. 12, 1997

A COMMITTEE representing some 200 Chicago Housing Authority Security Officers has come to CCPA for help in dumping Local 1 of the Service Employees International Union. The Committee, led by Security Officer Russ Stigger, charges that Local 1 has spent the last six years ignoring the needs of the Officers, playing favorites and staging bogus elections.
One of the group’s major complaints about Local 1 is the highly questionable practice of counting members who do not vote as having voted “Yes,” the New Union Committee says. This technique was apparently used in approving the original 1991 Contract between Local 1 and the CHA, as well as ratifying another two-year Contract and a one-year extension that expired September 30th of this year.
“LOCAL 1 is out,” Officer Stigger says. That sentiment was echoed by dozens of Officers in a recent information-gathering trip that Stigger and CCPA Staff Representative Joe Longmeyer made to some nine different CHA sites.
At virtually every stop, CHA Security Officers had horror stories to share about how Local 1 officials ignore legitimate grievances and always seem to be “on vacation” when members need their union most. One particularly galling complaint that was repeated time and again is the case of a CHA Security Officer who quit the force, was off the job for more than two years, then came back at the highest rate of pay, jumping over dozens of other Officers on the Seniority List in the process.
In what was described as an obvious case of favoritism, the Officer who left, then came back at the top of the list, was seen as an “insult” to those Officers who had to earn their own salary increases based on the Seniority List alone, and not clout. In that case, Local 1 circulated a feeble letter blaming the whole affair on the CHA, which Stigger and his fellow Officers regard as a “joke.”
ON OCTOBER 1st, the day after the Local 1 Contract expired, the Combined Counties Police Association filed a Petition with the Illinois Local Labor Relations Board asking that a union representation election be held. The CCPA Petition was supported by signed Authorization Cards from just under 50 percent of the 200 Officers in the CHA Security Force. The Labor Board’s rules are that cards must be submitted by at least 30 percent of workers in order for an election to be held.
THEN, THE DAY after the CCPA Petition was filed, Local 1 posted a notice at one of the CHA Security Officer sites saying that a new three-year Contract had been approved by a vote of 28 to 21. Even if that vote was fair and accurate, the total of 49 is only about half the number of Officers whose signed Authorization Cards were submitted with the CCPA Petition. And, Local 1’s piddling vote total is only about 25 percent of the approximate 200 Officers who make up the CHA Security Force.
ALSO, in a blatant attempt at vote rigging, the Local 1 people originally announced that voting on a new Contract would be held at the Local 1 office at 940 West Adams in Chicago. However, several hours after the voting was to have ended, when it became apparent that only a handful of the nearly 200 Security Officers were actually voting, Local 1 officials took the ballot box to a CHA site at 1850 West Washington to hustle up more votes, which is a clear violation of Labor Board election practices.
NEVERTHELESS, Local 1 was last heard from trying to make the claim that they have a valid Contract in effect covering CHA Security Officers. However, Sharon Cruse Boyd, the CHA Human Resources executive in charge of Contract negotiations made it clear that no Security Officer Contract would be signed without official certification from the Labor Board.
CCPA Secretary Treasurer Sol Smith pointed out that “it takes two to sign a Contract.
The CHA is not going to sign a Contract with Local 1 unless they win an election and, considering how the Officers feel about how they’ve been treated over the last six years, that’s not going to happen,” Smith said.
Smith said the Labor Board could be expected to hold a Hearing on the CCPA Petition
in the coming weeks, with an election to follow in six weeks or so after that. Meanwhile, both Sol Smith and Russ Stigger are actively bringing new people into the CHA New Union Committee. The group is already holding a series of organizing meetings during which Officers are being polled on what they would like to see in their next Contract.
AS THE WEEKS go by, Smith said, all CHA Security Officers will be asked to make specific suggestions on what they want CCPA to demand in Contract talks with the CHA.
LOCAL 1 claims to have gotten the CHA to agree to a three percent wage increase in the Contract proposal that was subjected to the bogus October 1st vote. But compared to what CCPA routinely negotiates in its Contracts, if three percent is all Local 1 got, they weren’t even trying.
CCPA CONTRACTS have historically set the standard for labor relations agreements in Illinois. Since the first CCPA Contract was signed in 1968, this Union has always negotiated more for its members than any other labor organization before or since. In fact, before the first CCPA Contract, there was no such thing as a signed Contract covering Police or other law enforcement groups. Since that time, dues-grabbing outfits like Local 1 have done more to disappoint their members than to distinguish themselves on the members’ behalf.
ALTHOUGH LOCAL 1 is part of one of the largest labor organizations in the country, it is still primarily a janitors’ union. All of the members of the CCPA, by contrast, work directly in some area of law enforcement. Our members include sworn Police Officers, Correctional Officers, Security Officers, Investigators, Dispatchers and several categories of law enforcement support people. Also, all CCPA people work for government agencies while the great majority of members of the Service Employees International Union (which is Local 1’s parent organization) are in private industry.
“NEGOTIATING CONTRACTS for Police is nowhere near the same thing as negotiating Contracts for janitors or truck drivers,” Sol Smith says. “And you need a whole different set of skills to handle a grievance for a cop than to solve a problem for a janitor,” Smith says.
ALSO, a sister local of Local 1, Local 25 of the Service Employees International Union, was cited in a just-published report by the Chicago Crime Commission that detailed a pattern of corruption and nepotism that resulted in a takeover of the Local by the International.
According to the Crime Commission report entitled New Faces of Organized Crime—1997, Local 25 President Eugene Moats was accused of converting more than $100,000 of union funds to his own personal use and placing family members in high-paying union positions at the expense of better-qualified candidates. Also, Moats allegedly tried to pass a special tax against Local 25’s 13,500 members to make up a $470,000 shortfall in union funds that he was responsible for.
INTERESTINGLY, although the Service Employees International Union sued Moats for $1 million in damages in connection with the Local 25 corruption disclosures, the union did not bring criminal charges against him. Moats was kicked out of office last year but because he did not face the judge and a potential prison sentence, the SEIU has been able to pretend that it does not have any organized crime problems.
In an odd bit of irony, the Crime Commission reports that Moats was originally brought into SEIU Local 25 “to clean up the corruption and organized crime influence that plagued the Local.”
The CHA New Union Committee’s Russ Stigger, commenting on the SEIU’s corruption problems, observed that “when we bust somebody at Housing for stealing $20, that dude goes to jail. But when one of these janitor’s union guys steals hundreds of thousands, they give him a pension.”