CHICAGO — The union that represents Chicago's police officers is going public with a request for a 12 percent pay raise over two years and a $3,000-a-year-stipend to live in the city. But Mayor Rahm Emanuel isn't saying if he's on board.
"I am committed to putting more police on the streets," the mayor said Thursday. "They work very hard. In respect to their request for a 12 percent raise, I do not believe in negotiating in public, but we will negotiate what we feel is a fair contract for everyone."
Michael Shields, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7 union, said the union is also seeking reduced health care contributions for its members.
The union's demands were first reported in the Sun-Times.
"This is a tough time for Chicago Police officers. In the words of the mayor, they're doing more with less," Shields said. "And it's important that these guys do get compensated."
The union also is trying to cut and redefine the percentage of "merit" promotions, and get officers to the maximum salary — now set at $86,130 — after 20 rather than 25 years.
According to Shields, the negotiating stances were the product of a request for ideas from the union membership.
"We've shaped and formed them," he said. "This is a very comprehensive and large set of proposals." They were then released to union representatives and posted online for the membership.
Shields emphasized that, even though the latest contact expired last June, this is still an early stage. "We are still in the negotiating process," he said. Talks, however, are moving "at a snail's pace, just like any other negotiations with the city."
Because police and firefighters are forbidden to strike, talks continue until at least one side insists on binding arbitration. Shields said he could recall only a couple of contracts the union voted on without going to arbitration.
The union proposal does not specifically ask that additional officers be hired, but it does request that "minimum staffing levels" be set. Shields said the union position is consistent — more officers are needed to help stem the tide of city murders and gun violence.
"I've been advocating that since Day One," he said. "I think that the entire City of Chicago recognizes that except for the mayor and the superintendent."
In the union's current newsletter, Shields addressed how the media battle is constant, writing, "As contract negotiations are ongoing, we have seen and will continue to see public cheap shots being taken at Chicago Police officers."
He cited the high-profile recent settlements on police misconduct and attacked the Civic Federation and the city's inspector general for attempting to "skew public perception against us."
"Mayor Emanuel has several dozen media operatives on staff working very diligently to manipulate the press and public perception of the hardworking men and women on the Chicago Police Department," Shields said.
"Now more that ever, I urge members to stand together against the attacks we have already seen and the many we will continue to experience as we continue in the contract negotiations process," said Shields. "Do not let this mayor divide the membership. United we are strong; divided, the mayor will succeed."