City Council upholds labor-contract veto
Updated: October 28, 2012 6:08AM
PARK RIDGE — Park Ridge Alderman Joe Sweeney said he didn’t want to vote in favor of upholding Mayor David Schmidt’s veto of an employee labor contract.
But by the time the roll call came, he did.
At the Sept. 17 City Council meeting Sweeney, representing the 1st Ward, cast the deciding vote rejecting a three-year agreement with the local Illinois Council of Police and Sheriffs union, which represents 33 city employees across multiple departments. Fifth Ward Alderman Dan Knight and 6th Ward Alderman Marc Mazzuca also sided with the mayor, as they had when the contract first went before the council for a vote.
“I do not believe that this is the way to proceed,” Sweeney initially said of upholding the veto. “We are talking of possibly spending tens of thousands of dollars in litigation over this item.”
Sweeney, who had planned to vote “present” until he learned that such a vote would be considered among the majority, also predicted a work stoppage for other labor unions within the city.
“We could literally, with this veto, shut down the city of Park Ridge,” Sweeney said. “If that’s what you prefer to do, Mr. Mayor, I will support you.”
Sweeney went on to say that by upholding the veto the city “will go to court and go to arbitration and put this issue to bed once and for all.”
Schmidt, though pleased his veto was sustained by the council, had harsh words for Sweeney.
“I made my decision to veto the contract based on principle. Alderman Sweeney made his decision to vote to sustain the veto based on either spite or politics or some other reason which I simply cannot fathom,” Schmidt told the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate. “Whatever it was, it certainly didn’t reflect any principle on his part.”
Schmidt added: “In retrospect, I think I would rather that Alderman Sweeney had voted his conscience and abided by whatever principle he may have, rather than having my veto sustained in such an unseemly manner.”
Sweeney declined to speak to the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate following the City Council meeting and did not immediately return calls for comment.
Rich Bruno, an ICOPS representative, would not specify what the union’s next steps might be.
“The union is disappointed in the City Council’s vote and we will explore all our legal avenues,” Bruno said.
When asked if he was concerned about legal action against the City Council, Schmidt, an attorney himself, said he would rather see the city and ICOPS representatives “negotiate a contract that is fair to both the union members and the property taxpayers which, in my mind, means we would not be increasing our overall personnel costs.”
The ICOPS contract included a 1 percent raise for employees at the top step of the salary schedule. Those at the top step on May 1, 2013, would receive a 1.5 percent increase in their base pay, according to the contract. Pay increases for advancing up steps were also incorporated in the contract at a rate of 2 percent per step instead of the previous 5 percent.
The contract also includes a no-strike and no-lockout clause.
Schmidt said his veto was based on the fact that the city cannot afford to give employees pay raises at this time.
Finance Director Allison Stutts accused the City Council of voting “to make a point” when city staff are already “challenged” by fewer resources and employees. She said the five employees of the Finance Department who are members of the ICOPS union are the lowest paid employees in the city.