EAST ORANGE, NJ — Members of both the East Orange Police Department’s Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 16 and Fraternal Order of Police Local 188 were at City Council’s last meeting of 2015 on Tuesday, Dec. 28, to update council on the ongoing contract negotiations with Mayor Lester Taylor’s administration.
That was before 5th Ward Councilwoman Alicia Holman took the reins of the council’s Public Safety Committee, where she will serve as the liaison to the Police Department, Fire Department, Office of Emergency Management and the city’s other first responders and emergency service providers in 2016; Holman previously served in the position for several years.
However, she will be facing a new situation in the city’s public safety structure; Holman and her fellow councilmembers voted to combine all the disparate public safety agencies in East Orange into one new Public Safety Department, per the request of Mayor Lester Taylor.
“To my Public Safety family: I’m back,” Holman said Friday, Jan. 1, at the council’s annual reorganization meeting in Council Chambers.
“To all our employees in the city: I thank you. I stand with you and I will always do my best to make sure that your interests and concerns are taken seriously by everyone in city government.”
Holman thanked the city’s Communication Workers of America union members, specifically CWA Local 1077 of AFL-CIO District 1 members, “because they’re the ones out there as low man on the totem pole. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without you.”
Holman said those same sentiments also go out to the members of the East Orange Fire Department’s FMBA Local 23, as well as Superior Officers Lodge 188 of the East Orange Police Department’s Fraternal Order of Police and Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 16. The leaders of all those unions were at council’s last two meetings of 2015.
On Monday, Dec. 14, Bennie Brantley, an employee in the city’s Public Works Department who also serves as the president of CWA Local 1077 of AFL-CIO District 1, and Firefighter Garrett Winn, president of FMBA Local 23 of the East Orange Fire Department, attended council’s penultimate meeting of 2015. Brantley said he attended the meeting with CWA and AFL-CIO District 1 staff representative Jenelle Blackmon to draw attention to his union’s plight in their ongoing negotiations with the Taylor administration.
“Our local represents approximately 400 folks and we’ve been out of contract since the start of 2014,” Brantley said Monday, Dec. 14. “I work in property maintenance and I’m here this evening to bring to the attention of the council the plight that we’re going through with the city’s administration. We’re offered nothing and we’re asked to give back a lot. We’re asked for higher insurance; higher insurance co-pays; prescription; at the same time, we’re not offered one single cent of raises. It is unfair.”
Winn said the firefighters union is also involved in ongoing contract negotiations with the Taylor administration, but that wasn’t the reason he was at the council meeting.
“Our biggest problem is we have two classes of firefighter rookies and second-year guys that aren’t being paid what they are due,” Winn said. “The majority of them are younger guys that should be getting paid for the work they have done and are doing. That’s 3 to 4 months of checks that these guys have not been getting.”
“We would like these guys to be paid. It’s in the contract. … We’re just asking if you guys can help work that out,” Winn said at the council’s Dec. 14 meeting
Also present at the Dec. 28 City Council meeting were Sgt. Lawrence Flanagan, president of FOP Local 188, and Sgt. Elaine Settle, president of PBA Local 16; they let the council know the other city unions weren’t the only ones experiencing difficulties negotiating their contract with the Taylor administration.
“We’re pretty much here as a show of support for all the unions in the ongoing contract negotiations,” Flanagan said Dec. 28.
Flanagan said negotiations are a normal part of the contract process, but Settle said there is a difference this year since the Policemen’s Benevolent Association no longer handles the direct negotiations with officials from the Taylor administration.
“The Fraternal Order of Police is now the representative of the supervisors, as well as the rank and file, as bargaining unit,” Settle said Dec. 28. “I’m here to support them because I’m still supporting my members and I’m still a union rep on the state level.
“As far as being the state delegate, I’m still the PBA president, although we do not have anything to do with negotiations anymore. I believe in the union, so I will support the union regardless, especially when it comes benefits of officers. … We always can find a way to come together, when it’s about benefits, because the benefits affect all of us. We all work for the city of East Orange. We all work for the Police Department. So it doesn’t matter whether you’re FOP or PBA: We still work for the East Orange Police Department.”