Lightfoot: ‘Lack of urgency’ from police union standing in way of new contract

Lightfoot: ‘Lack of urgency’ from police union standing in way of new contract

Chicago police officers have been without a contract for several years. | Sun-Times file

The mayor said FOP President John Catanzara waited until this week for the year’s first negotiating session. Catanzara said if the mayor “felt so bad” about the four-year wait for a police pay raise, she would get personally involved in negotiations.

Chicago Police officers “working their tails off” have been waiting nearly four years for a pay raise because their union president has no “sense of urgency” to negotiate a new contract, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Thursday.

During a virtual interview with columnist Shia Kapos on Thursday for Politico’s “The Fifty: America’s Mayors” program, Lightfoot noted the first negotiating session of the year between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police was held just this week.

“Almost three weeks into the new year and we had no bargaining session. … That doesn’t make any sense. In the end of June, this contract will have expired for four years. Four years. The union leadership needs to have a sense of urgency so that we can get done what needs to be done around reform, accountability and get back pay to those officers who are working their tails off every single day and need to be compensated,” Lightfoot said.

“But it takes two to tango. We’re there. We’re ready. We should be meeting every week, multiple times a week to get a deal done. But, the union, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to have a sense of urgency about getting something done and delivering for their members.”

FOP President John Catanzara said if the mayor “felt so bad” about the four-year wait for a police pay raise, she would get personally involved in negotiations.

“The reality is, they are not sending us two dates a week as a request themselves. So they can point the finger all they want,” said Catanzara, who has battled constantly with the mayor.

Catanzara has accused the Illinois General Assembly of handing the “keys to the criminals” with a sweeping police reform bill that gave Lightfoot what she could not achieve at the bargaining table.

On Thursday, he called the mayor’s bluff.

“I told this to [the city’s chief negotiator Jim] Franczek to his face the other day: If you are so certain that the discipline protections you basically got because you guys back-doored everybody by trying to have Springfield do your heavy lifting with the sworn affidavit and everything else, well then, if you think that’s gonna stand come July 1st, there’s no reason for you guys to even negotiate,” Catanzara said.

“Demand arbitration right now. You tell me an arbitrator right now and we’ll tell you yes or no and we can go to arbitration tomorrow morning.”

Catanzara said his “primary focus” is on Springfield and making changes to what he called a “nightmare” crime bill that, among other things, ends cash bail.

“Lawyers for the city pretty much admitted that they had not read — and if they did read it, did not digest the effects of what the words meant as far as lawlessness in the city of Chicago. This is their negotiating team. I literally had to explain some of the ramifications of what was just passed,” Catanzara said.

“What do you think that means for this city and a record homicide [rate]? We might break that 900 and some record or whatever the hell it is. And we’re already on a killer pace to surpass even last year’s carjacking total.”

“Law enforcement is not only attacked. Victims are absolutely left out of that bill. There’s no consideration for victims’ rights and the keys to the city and state are turned over to the criminals. There’s no other way to slice it.”

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