More than 350 D.C. police officers resigned yesterday from their union, the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, to protest the labor contract the union recently negotiated with the city.
The resignations bring to more than 400 the number of officers who have quit the 2,200-member union local since the contract was ratified in late June, according to officers who oppose the contract and are battling the IBPO.
The officers charge that the contract does not give them enough money and other benefits, while authorizing the union for the first time to collect dues from officers who are not members of the union but are eligible to join it and are covered by the contract's provisions.
Several officers said yesterday that during the life of the three-year contract the nonmember dues collection would give the IBPO about $30,000 more annually in extra dues that will be "checked off" paychecks in automatic deductions.
The mass resignations were collected and turned in by 14-year veteran officer Buster Flanery, assigned to the headquarters communications division, who said he sought the signatures as a protest to the contract. The labor pact provides for bonus payments base during the first year and general wage increases in the second and third years. The contact also provides increases in health care and a revision of police disciplinary procedures.
The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), a rival organization to the IBPO, is trying to delay implementation of the contract while it challenges the IBPO for the legal right to represent the estimated 3,000 rank-and-file officers who are in the police bargaining unit. The fight is the latest chapter in a decade-long battle to represent the officers.
Officer Gary Hankins, an FOP representative, said yesterday that the resignation should force the city to at least delay the dues checkoff for nonunion members because the contract requires that two-thirds of the officers be membes before any nonmembes can be assessed dues. With the resignations, the IBPO no longer has two-thirds of the officers as members.
Donald Weinberg, the city's chief labor negotiator, disputed Hankins' view, saying the IBPO had two-thirds of the officers when the contract was ratified and could continue the checkoffs for the entire contract period.
"Right now it is for three years. I don't have a lot of patience for somebody who is now running around for whatever reason bad-mouthing the whole thing," Weinberg said.
However, James Lemert, an assistant D.C. corporation counsel, said it is unclear whether the union must maintain its two-thirds membership during the life of the contract. "There's nothing clear about this. That's one of the problems," Lemert said.
The resignations submitted yesterday would not take effect until Sept. 1, Lemert said. Weinberg said Mayor Marion Barry is expected to sign the contrct today and the dues checkoff system would begin in about two weeks.
Officer Larry Simons, president of the IBPO, acknowledged yesterday that the resignations of 400 officers are a problem, but declined to characterize them further. "This is a good contract. When the men and women work under it and realize it, they'll rejoin."
The contract provides for bonus payments, in place of increases in the wage base, of $1,400 during the first 18 months. A general wage increase of $1,000 is provided in the second half of the second year, and a cost-of-living increase of 7 to 9 percent in the third year.