By Emil Kezerle
Business Agent/Coordinator, Upper Michigan Office
1342 U.S. Highway 2, Crystal Falls, Michigan 49921 • 906-875-4990 • 800-361-1269
Political Action and the Upper Michigan Law Enforcement Association
How many times over the course of your career as a public sector employee have you had cause to say to yourself and others, “If only our Association had a friendly face on the Board or Commission who truly understands our needs and frustrations as employees.” For those of you who have been around for awhile, I suspect the number of times you have asked yourselves this question is significant. For those of you who may not have been around as long, I can almost guarantee that at some point you too will ask yourselves this same question. As an 18-year veteran of public sector employment, I also asked myself this same question countless times. I can also tell you that, until now, we Upper Michigan public sector employees had no real coordinated effort as a unified group to become involved in political action.
Just stop and think for a moment. When you find yourself in a contractual dispute with your employer over issues presented at the table, is it the county administrator, the city manager, or the personnel director who continues to deny your request? Or is it more likely that these people are following the specific direction of their respective elected Boards that may be comprised of a variety of personalities, and that very well may have been endorsed for election by a group in the community, who have little or no interest in taking care of their employees, and have far more concern with such things as the number of flower pots on main street.
Upon joining the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, you also became members of the Upper Michigan Law Enforcement Association (UMLEA). The UMLEA, on behalf of our WPPA/Upper Michigan membership, has been established to provide a powerful, effective, and respected voice for its member organizations to educate the public with regard to achieving improved public safety and crime reduction. The objective of the UMLEA is to unite all member organizations within the Upper Peninsula in order to promote and maintain candidates for elected office who are the most supportive of the law enforcement community in general and the protection of the citizens in Upper Michigan. The UMLEA is a stand-alone political action committee with independent bylaws adopted by the Board of Directors.
What is a member organization? A member organization is you if your local association is represented by the Wisconsin Professional Police Association. The UMLEA is not intended to provide representation as it relates to collective bargaining. In the simplest terms, the UMLEA is designed with the intent to provide a source of unity – a coordinated effort, if you will – representing the interests of all the public employees now represented in Upper Michigan by the WPPA.
What is the bottom line? What does this all mean? It means simply that we have built a political action mechanism for our Upper Michigan membership. We need to become involved in the process of local elections. The UMLEA needs to be, and soon will be, recognized as a group of public employees who do have a voice and whose endorsement will be sought by those seeking various offices across Upper Michigan. Below I have listed the names of current UMLEA Board of Directors. As I have stated in previous letters, the Board of Directors meet on an annual basis. Our next meeting is expected to be in April.
In conclusion, please give some thought to the absolute importance of your local association becoming involved in political action. In doing so, also keep in mind that you now are part of an organization that can provide significant assistance to you. Feel free to contact me or any of the below-mentioned Board members if you have any questions. I will leave you with a question: Is there a citizen in your respective communities who considers public safety and the treatment of public employees a priority?
UMLEA Board of Directors
President: Deputy Jim Blanton
Dickinson County Deputy Sheriffs Association
Vice President: Deputy George Beninghaus
Gogebic County Deputy Sheriffs Association
Secretary/Treasurer: Deputy Steve Kangas
Marquette County Deputy Sheriffs Association
Member: Patrolman Ken Nolan
Marquette City Police Association
Member: Patrolman Andy Porath
Menominee City Police Association
Member: Deputy Jeff Stromer
Houghton County Deputy Sheriffs Association
Member: Deputy Todd Tardiff
Delta County Deputy Sheriffs Association
Member: Deputy Wade Cross
Iron County Deputy Sheriffs Association
Associate Member: Ed Oswald
Delta County Sheriffs Department
Coordinator: Emil S. Kezerle
Summaries of Recent Contract Settlements
Iron County Deputies
Wages 2.25% and 2.50%
Insurance: Remained as was, PPO 11, $30 OV, 10/40 Rx-MOPD 2X
Employer has cap in place; members split all premium increase cost over 10%.
50/50 with Employer
HRA in place, monthly payment by employer into HRA;
Delta County Deputies
Wages: 3% each year for three-year agreement with 1% each year going to cover FAC-3 pension enhancement.
Increase in Longevity. $500 signing bonus. Small increase in shift differential.
Insurance: County has cap in place. Members split any premium cost increase over 10% 50/50. Family is paying about $100.00 a month for best plan of four plans offered.
Norway Police Department
Wages: 2% each of three-year agreement.
Caps placed on vacation and sick leave accrual and added language which allows buy back of some sick leave and/or vacation.
Insurance: Dropped to a PPO plan 10 with an HRA of $85.00 a month. Added opt out payment in lieu of insurance coverage language; $250 Single/$350 Two/$450 Family.
Dickinson County Supervisors, Deputies, and Corrections
Wages: 2%, 3% and 3%; 1% increase in pension contribution for members years two and three.
Two units received a slight shift differential increase to come in line with the third unit (deputies).
Language change on how comp time is earned to members’ benefit.
Insurance: An Employer cap has been in place for many years. Members pay all of any premium increase over 8%. New hires to pay 10% of annual premium.
Menominee County Courthouse Employees
Wages: Four-year agreement; 2%, 2.5%, 3% and 3%
Small increase in uniform allowance for Parks/Maintenance employees.
Insurance: Reduced from PPO 2 to PPO 3, 10/40 Rx MOPD, with monthly premium. Share of $60 Family/$55 two person/$25 single, 10% of premium for new hires. (Note: Appears the deputies and corrections units will be very similar.)
Negotiations continue with deputies and corrections units.