Recent comments made by Phoenix mayoral candidate Wes Gullet seem to indicate that he believes union officials in the city of Phoenix are abusing taxpayer dollars. Mr. Gullet along with the Goldwater Institute would like everyone to believe that the city, through taxpayer monies, is paying for union officials to conduct union business on city time. To the casual or uninformed observer that doesn’t do their own homework, this might certainly seem to be the case. This begs the question; When do the tax dollars actually belong to you? The following article addresses this very issue.
Mr. Gullet, They’re My Pants
Mark Spencer, Legislative Liaison
Costco has good deals. They certainly do when it comes to pants. I buy my Kirkland blue jeans at Costco for around $12.99 a pair. And even though the money for these pants comes out of my wallet, after listening to Mayoral Candidate Wes Gullet and the Goldwater Institute, I’m not sure of two things:
is it really my money that’s coming out of the wallet and do the pants that I’m buying with that money really belong to me? Mr. Gullet has created a great deal of doubt about my pants. If I listen to Wes, I don’t really buy my pants, the taxpayer does. So the money in my wallet and the pants on my body aren’t really mine. They belong to the taxpayer.
Mr. Gullet and the Goldwater Institute understand police officers work for the City of Phoenix. Police officers receive wages and benefits from the City. The funding for these wages and benefits are provided by “our tax dollars.” So, the money in my wallet and the pants on my body aren’t really mine; they’re the taxpayers’. But is this true? Is this thought process consistent with reality? I’ve yet, in my brief 25 years as a Phoenix Police Officer, had a taxpayer come up to me and demand that I take off my pants (a risky request in and of itself – who wants to see that?) and give him his Kirkland jeans back. But it seems that Gullet and Goldwater believe this grab for my pants is not unreasonable. Help me! When do the pants that I wear become my pants and not the taxpayers’? In fact, when does anything a police officer owns become his or hers and not the citizens? Do private property rights exist for those who risk their lives in pursuit of the rule of law on behalf of taxpayers?
As a private citizen, Mr. Gullet owns his pants. As a private entity, the Goldwater institute has assets that belong to their organization. Why can’t police officers and their private not-for-profit police association (PLEA) have access to the same property rights as Gullet and Goldwater? Once again, when do the pants that I purchased with “our tax dollars” become my private property and when do banks of association hours that police officers purchased with the same “tax dollars” become the private property of their association? These questions could be helpful to Mr. Gullet too. When do the pants purchased by Wes with his clients’ money become his pants and not his clients’ wardrobe? For police officers, “who owns my pants?” is easily answered. When the City Manager, PLEA, and the City Council agree and sign a contract – the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding), the money in officers’ wallets, the pants that they wear, and the paid leave time of their association become theirs. Ownership by the taxpayer ceases.
Mr. Gullet, we live in a right to work state. In Arizona, police officers have a choice if they want to join a police association. Unlike your clients at SEIU, what officers in Arizona don’t have choice in is whether to engage in strikes or work slow-downs – it’s against the law and morally reprehensible. These police associations are allowed by the officers to negotiate rights, wages and benefits on their behalf. In Phoenix, officers belong to a work group known by City Management as Unit 4. The City does not negotiate private contracts with individual officers like lobbyists do with corporations (for example, a special interest group like your client SEIU). Dealing with rank and file officers as a group is cost effective and avoids the appearance of employing hired guns or mercenaries. Now, at negotiations, the City presents an amount of funding (sourced from taxpayers) available for wages and benefits. Police officers, through the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, decide how to utilize these available monies. They could invest the entire amount into wages. They could decide to forgo any wage increase and focus on career enhancement training compensation. They could use this money for post employee health benefits. Or these officers could decide to put small amounts of their allotted money toward numerous issues. One of the places police officers have chosen in the past to put some of the funding made available by the City is in their association hour banks. By doing this, these police officers, who are required to make life and death split second decisions, agree to take a lower hourly wage so as to obtain the benefit of further protection and improved representation to care for their careers, certifications, and families. As a group, they’ve decided to purchase paid leave with their money for their elected representatives of their association. These same police officers then vote on this investment by means of contract ratification.
Mr. Gullet, if you haven’t noticed, police managers routinely have other priorities than the success and fair treatment of front-line first responders. Maybe that’s why last session both Republicans and Democrats at a State level supported and passed no less than 6 protective police labor bills. Maybe that’s why this “purchase” of association hours by our officers is very important to rank-and-file personnel. The association hours paid for by police officers protects the City from violating federal labor law (we call it Weingarten). Out of a $4 billion City of Phoenix budget, the combined value of allhours owned by every work group is $3.7 million. Let’s do the math Wes. This is .08% (Wes, that’s POINT ZERO EIGHT percent – less than 1/10 of 1%). If you want to talk about what “isn’t fair to our City” just look at the millions of “our tax dollars” paid out in lawsuits due to poor police management decisions.
If you take a look at those pictures of fallen sworn Phoenix Police Officers on the PLEA wall, not one chief, not one commander, and not one lieutenant (or City Council member for that matter) is to be seen. Perhaps that’s why the Phoenix City Council has consistently provided fair wages to Phoenix Police Officers without one complaint that they’re overpaid (at least we don’t hear these complaints in emergency rooms with injured officers or at police funerals with widows and orphans).
With all this said, Wes, when your election mailer stated; “…labor bosses get paid millions in our tax dollars all while on the city payroll. This isn’t fair to our city…” a more accurate communiqué would be; “The men and women who risk their lives to protect taxpayers, by means of a ratified contract, chose to utilize their compensation, which the City Manager and City Council made available to them through budget and negotiation processes, to acquire additional protection by means of representation hours for their elected association officials.” It appears you don’t believe the pants Phoenix Police Officers wear and the association hours they invest in belong to them. But they do. Rhetoric rarely matches reality. Political opinion seldom determines truth. Mr. Gullet, they’re my pants!