Public Watchdog.org

District 64 Teachers Negotiations Starting Off On Wrong Foot

10.11.11

Anybody who has been reading this blog for the past several months knows that we have been critical of across-the-board salary increases recently given out by the Park Ridge City Council (to both union and non-union employees) and by Park Ridge-Niles School District 64 (to non-union administrators).   Such increases, lacking any basis in merit or productivity, are bad public policy on several levels; and bad management of limited resources. 

We were highly critical of City Manager Jim Hock’s apparent abdication of responsibility for the firefighters contract negotiations to senior Fire Dept. staff (the “Fire Guys”).  As part of the firefighter “fraternity,” they couldn’t be expected to negotiate aggressively with their “frat brothers”; and they never should have been put in such positions of likely failure.  That bit of bad management is on Hock.

Nevertheless, Fire Chief Mike Zywanski made a bad situation much worse by agreeing (beyond his authority, and without even discussing it with the mayor or City Council) to a set of negotiating “Ground Rules” that gagged our elected officials and kept the public in the dark about the terms being negotiated.  He then compounded that gaffe by sitting silently at the May 2, 2011 Council Meeting and refusing to answer Mayor Dave Schmidt’s questions about who committed the City to those “Ground Rules.”  That’s entirely on Chief Z…and on the City Council that approved the resulting ill-advised contract.

But now the taxpayers are facing yet another opportunity to be fleeced by their public employees, this time courtesy of the negotiations between District 64 and the Park Ridge Education Association, a/k/a, the teachers union – the folks who never miss an opportunity to portray themselves as selfless “professionals” who use the slogan “it’s for the kids” as a talisman to ward off accountability and any form of criticism. 

Unlike some residents who get upset when public employees ask for more money, however, we see nothing wrong with public employees asking for higher wages and better benefits.  That’s the “labor” side of the capitalism equation.

Where the problem arises is when feckless elected and appointed officials can’t or won’t say “no” to those requests.  And, as we recently saw when the D-64 Board rubber-stamped 3% across-the-board raises for administrators hashed out in closed session on June 27, 2011, only Board member Anthony Borrelli was willing to say “no.”  That bodes ill for Park Ridge taxpayers who already pay approximately 1/3 of their ever-increasing property tax bills to D-64.

Which is why we are concerned that the District’s teachers contract “negotiating team” reportedly is being led by Board President John Heyde and Board member Pat Fioretto, neither of whom will ever be accused of being fiscal conservatives, even as that term has become increasingly diluted by those who loudly proclaim themselves as such but then quietly ignore all that being it entails. 

Heyde’s imprint on the D-64 Board has been one of secrecy – or the “lack of transparency,” if you prefer – about D-64’s operations, as we’ve previously written in posts such as: “Some ‘Over-The-Transom’ Info About District 64’s Under-The-Radar Activities” (07.06.11); “Secret Pay Raises At School District 64?” (06.30.11); “D-64 Board Stealthily Picks Architect of Record” (05.13.11); “More Of The ‘Culture of Secrecy” At District 64” (09.16.10); “Arrogant And Disrespectful, Or Simply Petty And Juvenile?” (04.07.10); and “Concealing The Details Of A ‘Fair’ Contract Raises Questions” (09.14.09).

Any wonder that the teachers union contract signed by Heyde and Eric Uhlig back in 2009 includes a provision that keeps those negotiations…wait for it…secret from the public, unless both sides agree otherwise?

But Fioretto’s role in the union negotiations might be even more problematic than Heyde’s, primarily because Fioretto makes his living as a labor and employment attorney representing unions, albeit private sector unions.  As his law firm’s website advertises:

Baum Sigman Auerbach & Neuman, Ltd. was founded in 1963, making it one of the oldest law firms in Chicago specializing in the representation of Unions and Taft-Hartley employee benefit funds. For over forty years, we have maintained our commitment to working men and women who comprise organized labor and their employers. We strive to protect the benefits earned by the labor movement as they relate to unions, Taft-Hartley employee benefit funds, and the individual worker.

While we take no exception to Fioretto’s (or his firm’s) avocation or its inherent duties, they generally tend to require the kind of pro-union “fraternal” mind-set that does not readily lend itself to aggressively arguing the “management” position during contract negotiations with other unions, as the Fire Guys recently demonstrated in the botched City firefighters contract negotiations.

While Fioretto’s position on D-64’s negotiating team might not be a classic conflict of interest, it carries the aroma, if not the actual appearance, of impropriety.  Does anybody outside of the D-64 administration and Board – and, of course, those PREA negotiators trying to stifle their grins – reasonably believe that Fioretto should be leading D-64’s negotiating team any more than the Fire Guys should have been leading the City’s firefighters contract negotiating team?

Whether this is simply a big mistake or whether it’s an inherently bad idea is irrelevant.  What is relevant, however, is that this appears to be another case of the wrong men for an important job.

And that’s why, once again, we’ll all end up paying the ever-rising costs of Heyde’s and Fioretto’s unpaid “volunteer” service.

To read or post comments, click on title.

22 comments so far

Companies are laying off and freezing wages while our property taxes are paying for public sector enployees to get over 6% in annual raises, why?

So your point is that it may be a conflict of interest to have union labor negotiators negotiating on behalf of taxpayers, right?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Wrong, as we believe our post makes clear. It may not be a strict conflict-of-interest, but it seems to put Mr. Fioretto in a position where his duty of loyalty to District 64 and its taxpayers is suspect – just like the Fire Guys’ duty of loyalty to the City and its taxpayers was suspect and may have been breached.

Taxes in this city and state are getting so outrageous that I’m now looking for somewhere else to live. I find it amazing that there are so many people out there looking out for the unions best interest instead of the tax payers interest. City council is spineless and Schmidt is sticking his finger in the dyke. It’s time to fire Hock for gross dereliction of duty and freeze ALL CITY EMPLOYEES’ PAY! Get in line with the public sector and be happy you have a job.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We assume you meant “dike.”

We can’t keep electing representatives who really don’t represent the interests of their constituents but just do whatever they want to make their lives easier and keep the squeaky wheels greased. How could Fioretto not see just how bad it looks for him to be a lead negotiator?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Can’t see, or doesn’t care?

What do the bloggers here mean when they say pro-union? Are the bloggers here saying being pro-union means someone is automatically anti-taxpayer? That is stupid. According to the bloggers here, the unions can ask for anything they want but the only acceptable pro-taxpayer answer is saying no. The bloggers here are just stupid.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And yet you just can’t stay away, can you?

And yet the bloggers here can’t help being stupid.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And apparently you can’t help your OCD.

It is not the blog or the bloggers who are pro-union/anti-taxpayer. I think the point of the post was that the system is designed to cut the taxpayers out of the process completely, to their financial detriment, and that our city staff was complicit in that effort.

This is what is anti-taxpayer. The taxpayers are being TOLD what they will pay, without any input or even knowledge of the contract negotiations. If they object through their elected officials, tough sh__. The system has pre-ordained that some arbitrator from who knows where will decide what is “best”, and we have been warned by the Chicken Littles (and I mean Little) that the sky will fall if we don’t submit. That is wrong.

Yup, we’re all stupid people here who aren’t getting contract mandated annual raises automatically (Not performance based) because in spite of current economic, the unions are more like Henry Hill (Business bad? F* you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? F* you, pay me.) than a business friendly organization.

Personally, as an observer of Chicago area unions, it’s absolutely the case where pro-union IS anti-taxpayer.

Of course you don’t seem to mind working for a government funded law firm and then cashing in on the “all you can eat” public funded buffet while simultaneously sitting in judgment on public library employees. Is your following statement directed at yourself?

“Whether this is simply a big mistake or whether it’s an inherently bad idea is irrelevant. What is relevant, however, is that this appears to be another case of the wrong men for an important job.”

BTW, how much was your bonus this year?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Is there any actual thought or public policy hiding in your comments, or did your spleen just need some venting?

And speaking of bonuses, maybe the public employees unions could negotiate for merit-based bonuses instead of across-the-board salary increases. Wait, check that: our public officials don’t require merit in order to give out raises. Never mind.

How is my observation different from yours? You want to know how Mr. Fioretto can sit on a Board and make judgments, while his law firm represents public labor interests and I want know how you can sit a Board and make judgments, while your law firm gets funded with public money to destroy labor interests?

BTW, I’m all a tingle waiting for the Editor’s note…….

EDITOR’S NOTE: Your observation makes no sense because:

1. it’s based on the erroneous premise that only Mr. Fioretto’s “law firm” represents unions, when Mr. Fioretto himself does so;
2. it’s based on what appears to be a second erroneous premise, that his law firm “represents public labor interests” when we are aware of only its representation of private-sector “labor interests”;
3. as a D-64 Board member he owes a duty of public trust and loyalty to the District as a taxing and administrative body, not to the teachers union; and, therefore,
4. we submit that his dependence on unions for his livelihood invests him with pro-union sympathies that are inconsistent, if not in direct conflict, with his duties as a negotiator for D-64 against the teachers union.

Conversely, the editor of this blog earns no “public money” because he does not perform services for the public bodies who are clients of his law firm; his law firm doesn’t represent any Park Ridge-related public body; and even if his firm were to be paid to “destroy labor interests” that would not be in conflict with the firm’s duties to its governmental clients.

Tingle away.

I was just looking at my tax bill. My D64 portion in terms of dollars did not increase, it was flat versus last year.

Since the value of my house is falling in value, aren’t all of the different taxing bodies going to have to increase their rates in order to receive the same amount of money as the prior year?

How will D64 be able to give out raises when the tax base (values ) are shrinking? Do they factor that aspect into the negotiations?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Messrs. Heyde and Fioretto will worry about that after they give out the teachers’ raises.

Not sure the motive of “Anonymous” here, but I’ll make my motive clear: Stop raising my taxes. I don’t believe in resentment and I have nothing against public school teachers because I used to be one.

The fact is that private sector workers are going without pay raises, or without any pay at all if they’ve been laid off. Government officials ask that “everyone share the pain.” It goes both ways. There’s no reason why teachers should get a raise. Sorry.

I agree 100% with 5th Ward Taxpayer.

5TH WARD TAXPAYER is ill informed like the rest of the bloggers here. Private sector employees are not going without pay raises. On average companies have projected pay raises of 2.9% this year. That is not as good as the average in 2009 at 3.2% but it is better than 2010. Though it looks like 5TH WARD TAXPAYER and the other bloggers here are not letting any facts get in the way of their favorite stories and talking points.

EDITOR’S NOTE: And your “data” comes from where, exactly…other than your mother’s basement?

We could also raise the point that private employers – unlike the mopes who run the public sector – usually demand increased productivity and/or profits as a prerequisite for salary increases and/or bonuses, unlike the across-the-board increases given to public sector employees, when they’re not getting “step” increases for not getting fired.

Anonymous 6:12 pm

You write about “projected pay raises of 2.9% this year” as if that’s fact, but “projected” isn’t fact. And you don’t say where you got that projection from, so maybe the editor is right and you are making this stuff up from your mom’s basement.

Dear Anonymous: I’d love to know what your sources are.

My sources are (1) My paycheck, which is the same as it’s been the past two years, (2) My income tax bill, which now features the AMT schedule limiting my deductions, (3) My property tax bill, which absolutely saw an increase both in dollars and in percentage the amount I pay for the two school districts.

To be fair, I also researched the topic a little online and found at least one prediction from last March that would seem to back you up. http://www.culpepper.com/eBulletin/2011/SalaryIncreaseBudgets0311.asp

Then again, those were predictions. The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data, published on 9/29, only reports activity through last March.

Then again, a 2.9% increase in private sector pay would not justify a 6% increase in teacher pay. Business owners decide how much salary to add or cut from their budgets, and we taxpayers can do the same with teacher salaries. In addition, we should compare pension plans. Public-sector pension plans are quite generous these days. Just ask Sally Pryor.

BNONYMOUS, you must me an extra special stupid blogger here since you can’t read a calendar or know how to use Google. The year isn’t over so a final result can’t be made. There are many trade and business publications that take salary planning surveys every year and projections are facts, based on what is reported in those surveys. None of the stupid bloggers here say where they get their fact either. Can 5TH WARD TAXPAYER offer anything to support what s/he claimed is The fact is that private sector workers are going without pay raises? I can post the resources I used, but the stupid bloggers here should do their own work. There is a whole big internet out there beyond this site. Getting some real information for a change would cure a lot of the headcases who blog here. It looks like that won’t be happening because the TEA++ Party bloggers here won’t let real facts get in the way of their stories and talking points. If they ever had to face reality or the truth the bloggers here would probably die from spontaneous combustion.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yet you keep on coming back.

And because you appear to be unclear on the concept, numerous fact-less sentences strung together into one interminable paragraph does not make it Faulknerian, no matter what your mother may tell you.

here’s my facts…..i’ve gotten 2-3% raises for the last 10 years and have a 401k, i’m in finance by the way for a small firm. our firm is doing well but clients have squeezed our fees through the years as we have done with their vendors on their behalf to reflect the market. my other facts are just my friends and neighbors in park ridge. one professional unemployed for 2 years who has earnestly looked for a job; my neighbor and is wife are both unemployed, another neighbor close to losing job, another neighbor, a tradesman, barely has any work, another neighbor, in construction barely has work and these are just the ones i know about! don’t believe everything you read in the paper. stats don’t always tell the story. there’s the haves and the have-nots and many people in park ridge are suffering financially. the system is broken and needs to be changed. the unions hold all the cards and that is ass backwards. the system will eventually implode so you can be on the front end and be proactive or on the back end and be reactive, but it isn’t going to pretty or popular either way.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve heard many of the same stories, but we have also heard other, better ones, too. That’s why we try to stick with looking for policy-based answers rather than ad hoc responses to a certain set of usually-temporary facts. And that’s why we question the judgement of elected officials both at City Hall and the D-64 ESC who can blithely hand out 3% across-the-board raises for no reason other than “they haven’t had a raise in awhile” or some similar gibberish.

We trust, however, that when you write “the unions hold all the cards,” you mean the public sector unions, because these days private sector unions are lucky to be holding a lonely pair of deuces.

Their public sector “brethren,” on the other hand, have done quite well over the past couple of decades by either colluding with corrupt officials or simply bamboozling clueless ones – the latter situation seemingly reflected in the case of the City’s firefighters’ contract, where our aldermen have willingly let themselves be stampeded like cattle into approving a bad contract by the threat of arbitration raised by: (a) a City Mgr. who irresponsibly handed off the negotiations to lifelong union guys now wearing “management” caps; and (b) a “labor” attorney who reportedly charged the City $40,000 for we’re not sure what, but who now is attempting to justify that payday by claiming she and the Fire Guys negotiating team did such a great job that she can’t even tell the Council about it, unless they let her do it in the “secrecy” of a closed session.

Transparency? Accountability? Bueller?

Hi. Not sure how we wound up in a discussion over whether private sector pay has grown this year. As I mentioned in my earlier post, if it has grown, it’s only done so by about 2-3%. And whatever degree it grows or shrinks is the decision of employers, no one else.

Public sector pay, on the other hand, grows or shrinks by decision of the taxpayers. It’s incredible to me that some taxpayers want to pay even more in salary and pensions, but that’s their opinion.

The problem we’re really debating here is that the school district gives taxpayers little or no voice in the decision.

This discussion under a blog post is great. It would be even better at a school board meeting.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We suspect that’s one of those “When you can’t defend public sector pay, attack private sector pay” strategeries. We doubt the taxpayers would be voting for raises for the public employees if they were put to referendum, but they won’t be; and they probably shouldn’t be, assuming we had elected and appointed public officials who understood the economics of these special deals.

“The problem we’re really debating here is that the school district gives taxpayers little or no voice in the decision”.

Help me out here. What exactly are you calling for?? The taxpayers voice is being heard just like any other department of government with elected officials. It ain’t perfect but that is the way it works.

I think you are really saying is that they are doing something you do not like and therefore “giving taxpayers little or no voice in the decision”. If it was a decision you liked you would not be saying this.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The elected officials are the citizens representatives, so you are correct in that respect. However, there are various ways that a governmental body can give the citizens a more direct voice in their government, whether through referendum or through providing more and more timely information which allows citizens to voice their opinions to their representatives in an informed manner.

PD:

First, you yourself said that a referendum should not be necessary.

Second, the information is available. The “Forum” is open. Anyone can voice their opnion on any issue. They can organize and they can even protest in the parking lot if they want to. They can make calls and write letters. They can, get this, PARTICIPATE!!!!!

I hate to bring up an old topic but I think it serves as an illustration. Look at what happened with PADS. I think it is fair to say that the information provided in that process was not perfect or timely. I think the council and Mayor were probably even worse at it than the school board is today. Look what happened. citizens participated in the process. They worked to get information and spread the word. They let their voices be heard loud and clear – on both sides.

So when the poster says “gives taxpayers little or no voice in the decision”, my answer is simple. Bull shit!! You have all the voice you are willing to take. If there ar so many people who think as you so about this issue they have every opportunity to participate in the process and have their voices heard.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Sorry, anon, but no other of the 3 branches of exclusively “local” government has consistently been as secretive and non-transparent as D-64, as we have pointed out repeatedly. If you need proof, look no farther that the fact that it was the last of the 3 to videotape its meetings – which it did only AFTER Marshall Warren started doing it on his own, which he did only AFTER his requests to the D-64 Board were back-burnered/ignored.

Hey everyone…I think both of you are right. My statement about taxpayers having little or no voice was a reference to how D-64 makes it hard to know ahead of time what’s being discussed, makes it hard to know when at the meeting it will be discussed, and obfuscates the topics with a lot of gobbledygook. All of that behavior is true and documented. At the same time, you’re right — all we need to do is show up and explain how angry we are at their behavior. I don;t think they give a flying you-know-what about blog commentary. They should. But so should we care enough to be at a meeting.

I’ll add that the level of citizen attendance and participation should not allow anyone to just spend more money. It doesn’t take much intelligence or honesty to know that budgets need to be scrutinized.



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