The Boston Herald
Friday, October 3, 2008
Police union protests block 2 detail-free work sites
By Jessica Fargen
Angry police union members
chased away MWRA workers in Everett and Revere today citing safety
concerns in the first test of the state’s new rules on road details.
In Everett, union members
and reporters and cameramen surrounded a two-person crew from the
Massachusetts Water Resources Authority that showed up to perform
routine maintenance inside a manhole at 11:30 a.m.
After several conversations
with union members, the MWRA crew left without doing any work. Officers
left a bumper sticker on the manhole that read: Police Details Save
Lives Governor Appointed Flagmen Won’t.
Under new rules, a
$42-an-hour Everett detail police officer is no longer required on jobs
like the one scheduled this morning in Everett.
Union members followed the
MWRA crew to their next job on Fenno Street in Revere, where a city
police captain refused to allow the crew to do their work.
“Your plan is faulty and
we’re not going to allow you to work,” Revere Capt. James Guido told
MWRA Chief Operating Officer Mike Hornbrook, who accompanied another
The two confrontations are
believed to be the first attempts to comply with state regulations on
road projects that took effect today.
The regulations allow
civilian flaggers to be used at state construction sites, with certain
restrictions, replacing detail police officers. The work in Everett in
the past would have required a police detail, but under the new
regulations neither an officer nor flagger is required because the
street is relatively quiet, said Ria Convery, MWRA spokeswoman. The
agency submitted a construction safety zone plan to the police
department for the work, which is a requirement under the new
Convery said it’s unclear
if a similar-type job in Winchester will be completed today.
“There are clearly some
labor relations issues that need to be resolved and the street is not
the place to do it,” she said.
Hornbrook, the MWRA’s
second-in-command, accompanied another worker today because the agency
anticipated push back from unions, she said.
The Everett police unions,
who held signs and lined Tremont Street this morning waiting for the
MWRA crew, claimed the new rules violate their union contract and the
principle of good faith negotiations.
“The governor has
overstepped his bounds,” said Tim Benedetto, secretary and treasurer of
the Everett police patrolmen’s union. “We feel this violates our
collective bargaining agreement.”
Benedetto said Everett
police officers working construction and utility details make $42 an
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria
also supported the officers’ efforts saying that members negotiated
contracts with higher detail rates in exchange for general salary
“They are here based on a
contract they negotiated over the years,” he said.
Gov. Deval Patrick
championed the new rules as a major cost-savings to Massachusetts, the
only state in the country that requires police details at nearly all
construction and utility work sites. Patrick estimated the plan could
save $5 million a year.
The regulations instruct
the state to use civilian flaggers or electronic signs on roads with a
45 mph speed limit or less. The regulations would also affect roads with
higher speed limits, but relatively low vehicle trip counts.
Klark Jessen, spokesman for
the Executive Office of Transportation, said civilian flaggers will be
used sometime very soon at work sites. The state is training flaggers
and determining how much they will be paid, he said. In the meantime,
Mass Highway workers already trained as flaggers will be stationed at
work sites as part of their daily duties.
“The bottom line is Mass
Highway is working on it and there will be flaggers at locations around
the state very soon. An exact day has yet to be determined,” he said.
The Boston Herald
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Cops disrupt work sites
‘Bullies’ protest lost road detail perk
By Edward Mason and Jessica Fargen
Police union members
scattered MWRA crews from work sites in Everett and Revere yesterday,
sparking fears that out-of-control cops are using intimidation to
preserve their pricey traffic detail perk.
Barbara Anderson of
Citizens for Limited Taxation called police “bullies” for taking
after a pair of Massachusetts Water Resources Authority workers at a
site without a police officer or civilian flagger.
“It’s scary,” Anderson
said. “When cops become the criminals, who do you call?”
The confrontation came on
the first day for new Patrick administration rules allowing construction
and utility work sites to be staffed without costly cops.
Angry off-duty officers
yesterday blocked routine manhole maintenance in Everett, then followed
the MWRA crew to Revere. Off-duty officers ordered 10 pizzas and chomped
on slices while they milled about in a private driveway on Fenno Street
waiting for the MWRA crew to arrive.
Revere Capt. James Guido,
president of the Revere police union, called the MWRA safety plan
“Your plan is faulty, and
we’re not going to allow you to work,” Guido told MWRA Chief Operating
Officer Mike Hornbrook, who was at the site.
Ria Convery, an MWRA
spokeswoman, said the MWRA crew traveled to Winchester without incident.
Anderson encouraged Patrick
not to back down under police pressure.
“He has to send (MWRA
workers) out again and protect them,” Anderson said. “He can use State
Police. And if that doesn’t work, bring in the National Guard.”
Patrick aides declined to
say specifically how they would handle unruly local and state police if
they interfered with next week’s roll-out of civilian flagmen at work
sites overseen by the state Highway Department.
“We’re confident we can
implement (the rules) successfully and the Commonwealth will realize
significant savings,” said Kyle Sullivan, a Patrick spokesman.
The new rules instruct the
state to use civilian flaggers or electronic signs on roads with a 45
mile per hour speed limit or less. The regulations also affect roads
with higher speed limits but light traffic patterns.
department has trained more than 100 employees in flagging and certified
14 trainers. It plans to use flaggers for highway maintenance work
across the state.
Cops say they are better
prepared to handle safety emergencies at road sites. Patrick estimated
the state could save $5 million a year by curbing details.
The State Police
Association of Massachusetts, whose members patrol the state highways
where flaggers will appear next week, did not return a call.
The Boston Globe
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Police protests force work crews to abandon sites
Officers upset over law curbing use of paid details
By Brian R. Ballou
Police union members upset
with the governor's new rules allowing some roadway projects to go on
without police details protested at two work sites yesterday, forcing
state workers to abandon the projects on the first day under the new
A Massachusetts Water
Resources Authority crew planning to do routine sewage work through a
manhole in an Everett roadway decided to leave after some 30 protesters
appeared with signs and said they would prefer that the crew not go
ahead without a paid police detail.
The crew then went to
another roadway work site in Revere, where protesters also appeared. One
of the protesters, Revere police Captain James Guido, told Mike
Hornbrook, the MWRA's chief operating officer, that the work site was a
traffic hazard and that it was unsafe.
"I can't allow you to work
here," Guido said. The four-man crew eventually departed.
The confrontations were the
latest in a highly charged debate over police details that has raged for
years and recently escalated when Governor Deval Patrick ruled the state
would save millions by cutting back on the number of construction sites
requiring police supervision.
The rule changes have been
opposed by police, many of whom supplement their incomes with tens of
thousands of dollars annually by keeping watch over and directing
traffic at construction sites.
MWRA officials said they
carefully reviewed the new guidelines before sending out the crew,
believed to be the first to work under the new rules that went into
effect yesterday. The new rules don't require flaggers or police details
at most low-traffic, low-speed residential work sites, such as the ones
where the crews yesterday tried to work. But Guido, whose police
responsibilities include making sure all work sites in Revere meet
municipal safety standards, said the work would disrupt traffic.
A bumper sticker placed by
protesters over a manhole cover at the Everett site read: "Police
Details Save Lives, Governor appointed flagmen don't."
Police unions have long
tangled with administrations that tried to pry the perk away and in the
past have prevailed. In 1992, Governor William F. Weld proposed
replacing police details with civilian flaggers, but after hundreds of
police officers picketed the State House, he scrapped the idea. Through
the years, lobbying efforts have enabled police unions to hold onto the
roadway details, which had paid as much as $40 an hour to State Police
But several months ago,
Patrick, looking for ways to slice the state deficit, started backing
the effort to use civilian flaggers rather than police details, saying
the practice would not diminish public safety and would save the
Commonwealth millions. On April 17, Patrick signed a transportation bond
bill authorizing the Executive Office of Transportation to craft
regulations on the use of flaggers at roadwork sites. Yesterday, the
bill became law.
The new policy requires
police details at the most dangerous roadway sites and civilian flaggers
at some others. The least dangerous sites are not required to have
either details or flaggers. The policy will mean annual savings to the
state of between $5.7 million and $7.2 million, according to
Police union officials -
angry over what they say was unfair treatment during the
administration's drafting of the law - said they are planning more
pickets at state construction projects.
"There was no compromise.
It was a one-way deal, a wrong deal that doesn't save any money," Guido
said yesterday of the administration's drafting of the rule. Guido said
that civilian flaggers will not be as quick as police to react to
accidents or other public safety issues in and around roadwork sites.
Next week, the state
highway department is scheduled to begin using civilian flaggers at
roadwork sites throughout the state, said MassHighway Commissioner Luisa
"MassHighway is committed
to implementing Governor Patrick's civilian flagger program promptly and
safely, and we will have flaggers on certain projects that have been
deemed safe this Tuesday," Paiewonsky said.
She said the agency has
trained some 100 employees to be flaggers and has certified 14 trainers.
Kyle Sullivan, spokesman
for Patrick, said the administration intends to hold firm on its
commitment to the new rules. "We are confident these reforms will be
implemented successfully and that the Commonwealth will realize
significant savings," he said.
The new regulations will
place civilian flaggers on nearly all state roads where the speed limit
is below 45 miles per hour, and on low-traffic roads where the speed
limit is higher. Civilians would also be used at sites where barriers
are used to block off construction sites on a high-speed, high-traffic
road. High-traffic roads with speed limits of 45 miles per hour and
above would still rely on police officers.
The Swampscott Reporter
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
A Swampscott Reporter editorial
Anybody home at the SEA?
The Swampscott Education
Association has withdrawn from Swampscott — and a lot of its Swampscott
supporters have withdrawn from it. Not good.
The union and its
president, Paul Maguire, listened to state officials from the Mass.
Teachers Association and used that organization’s lawyers in
negotiations about substituting state employees’ Group Insurance
Commission health insurance for the town’s self-funded Blue Cross/Blue
They insisted on getting at
least some of the money the town would save from paying 60 percent of
their premiums by the switch in the form of an even greater percentage.
And they would not agree even when the selectmen offered to GIVE them
more, just not right away. (Bad decision, selectmen. You set a precedent
of giving in.)
Last week, town employees
voted but the rules are such that only the SEA vote really counts in the
final decision. And the GIC was turned down.
Guess what, folks? Another
dozen teachers are out of here next June. Gone. Forever.
Have you been watching gas
prices, grocery prices and the stock market? There is no chance, zero
percent, of an override next year, when the base pay for teachers (not
counting longevity steps and rewards for taking more classes) will go up
The town’s income will go
up 2.5 to 2.6 percent. Health insurance premiums will rise.
So long, young teachers.
Thank the SEA on your way out.
We’d like to think and we
almost suspect the state MTA used little old Swampscott as a test case
for its GIC strategy, just to see if it would work.
It didn’t. The union has
lost the support of many long-time friends who voted and worked for all
the expenditures Mary DeChillo lists in her letter. The Reporter also
supported those things and endorsed votes for them — we have the clips
to prove it.
Don’t count on that again
in the near future.
The Swampscott Reporter
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Letter to the editor
By Mary Hobbins DeChillo
Union leadership employs strategy
to town’s (and members’) detriment
To the editor:
With the defeat of the
Group Insurance Commission (GIC) state employees’ health insurance plan,
the budget season will continue as it always does, only now without the
savings of $600,000 ($800,000 if adopted in 2007) which adoption of the
GIC would have represented. At some point the unions will cry “foul”
when they realize that the cuts to personnel are for real.
Turning down the GIC is
likely to mean that 10 to 15 jobs will be lost on top (on the school
side) of 45 lost in the last two years.
The Swampscott Education
Association (SEA), with coaching from the Massachusetts Teachers
Association, will predictably proclaim that 1) there is “fat” hidden in
the budget or “irregularities” in the business office; 2) that the
School Department is top-heavy with administrators; 3) that the School
Committee and administration are “disrespectful” toward the school
employees; or 4) all of the above.
The SEA may call for a
“vote of no confidence” in the superintendent or the School Committee
(or both), a tactic they first used at the end of the last school year
against the superintendent. The VONC is a new high-octane strategy that
the state MTA is now promoting in an attempt to besmirch the reputations
of superintendents and school committees. The MTA conducted trainings
for local school unions over the summer so that they could be ready for
the new budget season.
This additional union
tactic joins other time-honored SEA strategies as the filing of
grievances, threatening protracted arbitrations, pubic letter-writing
campaigns to local newspapers, and disruptive behavior during public
School Committee meetings.
Union members have in
recent years walked out en masse from public meetings, yelled at the
School Committee and superintendent, and made unfounded accusations that
they know the administration and School Committee can't respond to
because of state statutes preventing disclosure about personnel matters.
Around February or March,
as the budget season heats up, the union leadership will employ the gold
standard of strategies — they will seek the sympathy of parents and
students. Rather than make a direct appeal to adults, they will first
pique the anxiety of their students by speaking about labor/management
issues in the classroom, knowing full well that students will go home
and get their parents involved.
Once a sufficient amount of
angst has been generated, parents and students will appear at School
Committee meetings outraged by this cut or that cut, blaming the School
Committee for a myriad of things, among them not supporting teachers.
The union claims aside, a
review what the town has provided to the schools since 2001 should
dispel any notion that the schools/teachers have been neglected and
disrespected by the town and the School Committee. Since 2001 the town
has supported the schools in the following ways:
2001 — Town passed a Prop
2˝ operating override
2002 and 2005 — Town passed
debt exclusions for a new high school and new field house
2002 — Chapter 70 funding
was cut 20 percent. Despite this severe cut, the town worked to sustain
services in subsequent years.
2006 — Town passed a Prop
2˝ operating override
2007 — Town negotiated
union contracts. Schools get 3-3-4 percent raises (excluding step
increases and longevity written into the contract) and town employees
get 3-3-3 percent, generous raises in light of unstable economic
conditions and inadequate Chapter 70 funding from the state.
2001-2008 — Despite drops
in Chapter 70 funding the School Department and the town officials
worked to keep the schools strong by giving a disproportionate funding
to the schools.
2008 — School Committee
chairman David Whelan organizes a North Shore coalition of school
committees and legislators to address Chapter 70 disparities and
schedules a direct meeting with Education Commissioner Paul Reville.
I had a front-row seat
during the years 2001-2007 as a member of the School Committee. In
addition, I was one of many volunteers who worked on the operating
overrides to support the schools and debt exclusion elections to obtain
the new high school, the field house and the senior center.
Those of us who spent weeks
making phone calls, holding signs, fundraising and getting the vote out
were struck by the notable absence of the SEA in an any of these
Even more disappointing was
the failure of the SEA leaders (or most faculty for that matter) to show
up at the “grand opening” of the new high school in 2007. The lack of
public acknowledgment by the SEA for all that the town has done for
teachers, including honoring the efforts of the hardworking volunteers
who secured the winning majorities in the past campaigns, should be
remembered in light of the failure of the GIC.
I continue to support the
many fine teachers who have given so much to my own children and who
continue to demonstrate a high level of professionalism. I have had
enough “off-line” conversations with teachers at all levels to know that
many teachers do not support the actions of their union leadership. They
simply don't know what to do about it. They are afraid to challenge the
leadership or show any support for the efforts of the administration or
School Committee for fear of retribution. I have encouraged these
teachers to speak up for themselves as a group and for the profession as
These are teachers whose
work ethic is not driven by the dictates of the teacher contract but by
the values of the teaching profession. They do not like seeing young,
creative and energetic teachers let go because they lack sufficient
seniority or other talented, experienced teachers walk out the door
because professional culture does not exist.
Taxpayers and parents need
to know how the union game plan works so that they can identify it when
the union attempts to reframe the debate. The simple fact is that the
SEA chose not to pass the GIC again this year. They have put the school
district at risk. They will try to palm that risk off onto the
administration and the School Committee. At the same time, they will
invoke the same mantra of “What have you done for me lately?”
It is imperative that
taxpayers and parents start pushing back on the union and ask instead,
“What are you doing for Swampscott's children today for the salary you
are getting from our tax money?”
Mary Hobbins DeChillo
The Salem News
Friday, October 3, 2008
A Salem News editorial
GIC savings embraced by Wenham,
rejected in Swampscott
The Metropolitan Area
Planning Council sent out a release this week announcing that 10 more
governmental entities had signed up to purchase their employees' health
insurance through the state Group Insurance Commission (GIC). Too bad
Swampscott wasn't one of them.
There, the teachers' union
exercised its right to derail such a move — despite the fact their
members' share of health-insurance premiums would have actually gone
down over time from 40 percent to 30 percent. As a result, school board
members are predicting more layoffs and perhaps even another school
The town figured to save
$600,000 by purchasing its health insurance through the larger and more
cost-effective GIC. But the union apparently preferred to keep the
control it has over this benefit through the collective bargaining
contract — and the legislation passed last year to help cities and towns
reduce their health costs by joining the GIC, included an unfortunate
provision giving unions veto power over any change.
Among the 10 who have
signed up for the GIC is the town of Wenham whose administrator, Jeff
Chelgran, told the MAPC that the move will provide "cost savings that
are much needed for the upcoming fiscal year."