By Thomas W. Bahr, Executive Director
Bargaining season is in full swing, the summer is winding down, and the WPPA continues forward. During the past several months the WPPA has been busy on several fronts.
Let me begin by saying that I was honored when the WPPA Board of Directors offered me the position of your Executive Director. Since 1932, the WPPA has led the cause for many issues which have affected our members, without whose support and involvement we would not have achieved the many successes that we have over these years. I hope that recent events will serve to remind us that no one person is the WPPA. This organization will, as it has in the past, remain strong because of the interest and participation of members. I welcome the challenges of my new position and assure you that I will execute my duties keeping our members’ interests in the forefront and the activities of those who serve you above reproach.
Some members may not be aware that the WPPA has an extraordinary presence at our nation’s Capitol. While the WPPA addresses members’ issues with Wisconsin’s Senators and Representatives, we also are affiliated with the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), a coalition of law enforcement organizations from across the U. S., founded in 1978, to advance the interests of America’s law enforcement officers through legislative and legal advocacy, political action, and education. NAPO represents more than 4,000 police unions and associations, 225,000 sworn law enforcement officers, 11,000 retired officers, and more than 100,000 citizens who share a common dedication to fair and effective crime control and law enforcement.
The WPPA has the distinction of having our Association’s President, David Mahoney, serve on NAPO’s Executive Board. President Mahoney and I recently attended NAPO’s annual convention and received updates on the status of litigation regarding ballistic vests. NAPO continues to be a leader on this issue. There were also updates on recent changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which still are being reviewed. The last word on their application likely will be resolved through litigation; however, as it stands now, there will be no effect on our members.
I would invite all of our members to visit NAPO’s web site at www.napo.org and to compare NAPO’s activities to those of any other national labor or fraternal organization. I believe you will find that NAPO stands head and shoulders above all other national organizations on issues affecting our members nationally.
Our chief Wisconsin lobbyist has been working hard on two fronts. In preparation for the fall elections, Jim Palmer has been assisting the Political Action Committee in gathering information, contacting candidates, and making sure that those whom the WPPA endorses are willing to act on and support issues that are important to our members. Additionally, Jim has been gathering data and making plans as to how our organization will deal with the continuing problem of possible changes in Wisconsin’s shared revenue program. He has had several meetings to gain cooperation from other organizations and legislators to help ensure our members’ interests. Our web site has additional information on the upcoming elections, and I urge every member to become informed and active in those elections that affect your respective districts.
There have been three additions to the WPPA staff. Michael Goetz, formerly a City of Evansville police officer, and Alan Bitz, a retired lieutenant of the Rice Lake Police Department, have joined the staff as business agents. Mike lives in Verona and has been assigned Locals in central Wisconsin. Al lives in Rice Lake and will be tending Locals in north central Wisconsin. Both have been doing an exceptional job for you and have been a great addition to the WPPA family. Kristi Heinemann was hired as our accountant and works in the Madison office. She brings expertise and a work ethic to the job that will serve the organization well. These additions to the WPPA’s staff will help to ensure that the needs of our members are met and that the organization will continue to improve. The entire staff appreciates our members’ patience during this time of re-staffing, and we will continue to strive to fulfill the needs of our members.
In the past several months there have been attempts by some bonafide labor organizations to convince members that the WPPA is struggling to take care of business. I am told that at least one has even temporarily reduced their dues to convince our members to join their organization. Indeed, there is now a new “organization,” going by the name of WI-COPS, that apparently operates under the umbrella of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and is sending recruiting information to many of our Local presidents. Two former WPPA employees, who hold themselves out to be representatives of WI-COPS, have made statements and created literature that makes assertions about WPPA that are interesting, to say the least. I would suggest that you carefully review and question the basis for these assertions and thoughtfully investigate the organization that is being touted as being one with a “Strong Wisconsin Presence.” I am unsure how this “strong presence” can be demonstrated in an organization that, prior to May 2004, didn’t exist.
Straightforward and honest information regarding the CWA, including their activities in the Midwest, may be reviewed at http://district4.cwa-union.org/. Information specific to the staffing levels of CWA’s Wisconsin contingent and where staff are located may be reviewed at this site as well. You will notice that few are actually located in Wisconsin, nor is there mention of police officers, deputy sheriffs, police dispatchers, or any other type of municipal employees anywhere on their site. For contrast, I encourage each reader to view our own web site at www.wppa.com.
The activities of a former employee which caused several bumps in the road for the WPPA continues to be investigated by federal authorities. The WPPA has enjoyed a long history of success in representing the needs of its members and is widely respected for its efforts by friend and foe alike. The successes of, and respect for, the WPPA have not been compromised. The circumstances that allowed for the problems, which came to light in March, to occur in the first place have been corrected. The current staff of the WPPA remain committed to this organization and, on a daily basis, with integrity, honesty, and hard work, to assist our members and their Locals to provide the best representation. Improvements have been and will continue to be made as we continue into the future.
In the next issue of this magazine, I will provide an update on the progress of the investigation into some of the practices which led to our recent problems. In the meantime, if you have specific questions about where the WPPA has been, where it is today, and where it is going, please contact me at the WPPA office.