The Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association (O.P.B.A)

Changes in Pension

By now you have hopefully been familiarized with the changes that will occur to your pension in the coming years.  If you haven’t you can familiarize yourself by logging onto www.op-f.org and reviewing the recently approved legislation and changes.  While over the last few weeks and frankly last few years the board and myself have been getting a little grief over these changes.  It is important to keep in mind the reasoning.  First, while change is unpopular it is needed to sustain the overall health of the fund.  Simply stating, we were paying out more than we were taking in, cost and life expectancies were continuing to rise and we could not simply sustain this trend.  While I cannot speak on the proposed changes first being presented to the ORSC and legislature I can speak on the fact that something needed to be done.  

I can also assure you at the time, the board that was in place was working with the best interest of the members in mind and that the changes that they chose would impact majority of the members least.  Those board members wanted to make changes that would have little or no impact on current retirees, minor impact on those about to retire with the ability for those to make certain adjustments and the most impact to those entering the profession or having ample time to make major adjustments.  The bottom line is whether supported or not change definitely had to occur to sustain the overall health of the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund.  Only time will tell whether these changes will work for a long and healthy retirement fund.

On another note, we have finally hired a replacement for our retiring Executive Director, William Estabrook.  John Gallagher was hired and comes to us as the Executive Director of the Chicago Police Pension Fund.  He has been with the Chicago Police Pension Fund since 1980 and has been the Executive Director since 2006.  He comes to us with a wealth of knowledge and the board is confident he will be an excellent predecessor to Mr. Estabrook.

Moving forward, the next task and issue that should be coming our way is disability pension reform.  We believe that the ORSC will make this a pressing issue in the years to come and ultimately look at addressing this growing debate.  To date we have one of the highest disability rates in the country with some 30% plus members retiring on disability retirements.  While our process is not in question and actually is one of the best in the country, the fact that our members become disabled according to our administrative policy at a high rate needs to be addressed.  I am not sure what the solution may be but I believe the board and staff will work with the ORSC to help refine this issue.  The reform itself may help the funding of the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund for future years.

Thanks for your support and should you have any concerns, comments or needs feel free to email me anytime.
Scott Huff
Trustee/Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund
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When is a Dispute a Greivance? When is a Grievance Arbitrable?

As students, we all learned about the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  Everyone remembers the subject matter of the first four rights:  religion, speech, press, and assembly.  The fifth right guaranteed by the Constitution is the oft times forgotten one, to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”  As a public sector employee covered by a collective bargaining agreement, your ability to seek “redress of grievances” does not flow from the Federal Constitution, rather it is an animal of contract law which is governed by the laws of the State of Ohio.  However, the concept is the same.  The Founding Fathers implemented the notion of citizens being able to legally check the actions of the Government when it oversteps its prescribed bounds.  Likewise, your collective bargaining agreement grants the ability to check the actions (or inactions) of your employer when it runs afoul of the agreed-upon labor contract.

Assessing “Grievability”

An OPBA member has a dispute with his or her employer.  That member wants to grieve the issue.  That member wants to arbitrate the issue and generally be made whole. This is an understandable and frequent reaction to the day-to-day employment disputes that affect the OPBA membership.  Often, the member has a legitimate argument for why he or she should be entitled to some sort of remedy.  At the very least he wants to have the ability to “petition” for the redress of the alleged grievance.  Sometime, that argument and ability is not so clear cut. Experienced OPBA Directors and representatives know that the first level of inquiry in any dispute with the employer is to determine whether something is actually a grievance.  A grievance is typically defined by the collective bargaining agreement under which the parties operate.  A grievance is essentially a breach of that labor contract.   There is a saying that every act of unfairness in the workplace is not necessarily an unfair labor practice; at least not an unfair labor practice charge that the State Employment Relations Board would be willing to take action upon.  Likewise, every dispute is not necessarily a grievance.  Quite often, a member will go to his OPBA representative alleging that a supervisor has treated him unfairly, or that a supervisor makes snide remarks, or that a supervisor is otherwise offensive.  The problem with many of these types of disputes is that collective bargaining agreements rarely contain any language which would be actionable to address such negative treatment.  Quite simply, it is difficult, if not impossible to succeed in obtaining contract language which would address the personality defects and egotistical tendencies of these supervisors at issue. 

Substantive Challenge to Arbitrability

While we sometimes see grievances alleging violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act or violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, those allegations may not be grievable because they may not have anything to do with what is contained within the four corners of the particular collective bargaining agreement at issue. In order for a dispute to be substantively arbitrable, the parties (i.e., the employer and the union) must have agreed at some time in the past to arbitrate it through the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.  Binding contractual arbitration exists because the parties have either agreed to its existence or a conciliator has imposed it in some previous conciliation award. In AT&T Technologies v. Communications Workers, the Supreme Court held:
The first principle gleaned from the [Steelworkers] Trilogy [of cases] is that ‘arbitration is a matter of contract and a party cannot be required to submit to arbitrate any dispute which he has not agreed so to submit.’  (citation omitted)  This axiom recognizes the fact that arbitrators derive their authority to resolve disputes only because the parties have agreed in advance to submit such grievances to arbitration….

Unless the parties, through the existing contract language, agreed to submit a dispute to binding arbitration, there is a chance that it is in fact, not arbitrable.  If certain subject matter is not specifically referred to or dealt with in the labor contract, then the employer may attempt to refuse to arbitrate and could be justified in doing so.

Who Decides What Is Substantively “Arbitrable?”

Generally speaking, it should be the arbitrator who decides what is within the jurisdiction of the arbitration provisions of a collective bargaining agreement.  Unfortunately, some employers take it upon themselves to “determine” that a matter is not arbitrable, thus forcing the union to file a law suit to compel the employer to arbitrate.  As a practical matter, these procedures are particularly prevalent when dealing with employers who are difficult in the first place; i.e., those employers who are offended by the mere concept of having to do business with their employees in a collective manner.
Luckily, substantial amounts of case law exist which place the question of arbitrability squarely in the hands of the arbitrator when there is mention of the subject matter in the collective bargaining agreement.  In Steelworkers v. American Manufacturing Co., the U.S. Supreme Court stated:

The function of the court is very limited when the parties have agreed to submit all questions of contract interpretation to the arbitrator.  It is confined to ascertaining whether the party seeking arbitration is making a claim which on its face is governed by the contract.  Whether the moving party is right or wrong is a question of contract interpretation for the arbitrator.  In these circumstances the moving party should not be deprived of the arbitrator’s judgment, when it was his judgment and all that it connotes that was bargained for.

The Court continued:

The courts, therefore, have no business weighing the merits of the grievance, considering whether there is equity in a particular claim, or determining whether there is particular language in the written instrument which will support the claim.  The agreement is to submit all grievances to arbitration, not merely those which the court will deem meritorious.  The processing of even frivolous claims may have therapeutic value of which those who are not a part of the plant environment may be quite unaware.

When there is not language in the collective bargaining agreement related to a particular matter in dispute, the parties may be forced to litigate the subject matter arbitrability in court.  A court may determine that a grievance is appropriate for arbitration, or a court may determine that the matter in dispute has nothing whatsoever to do with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and may decline to order an arbitration hearing.

Procedural Challenge to Arbitrability

Aside from the subject matter challenge to arbitrability, an employer may also raise the idea that a matter is not procedurally able to be arbitrated.  These challenges may include failure to timely raise or process a dispute.  There may also be an allegation that a matter is not ripe to be arbitrated, meaning that no harm has occurred, even if there may be harm in the future.  The essence of a procedural challenge is to determine whether the rules of the road have been followed.  If they have, then the matter is arbitrable, if they have not, then the matter may not be subject to arbitration.
Unlike substantive challenges which sometimes require the intervention of a court to determine whether a dispute should be arbitrated, procedural challenges are generally left to the arbitrator and only the arbitrator to decide. A work published under the authority of the American Bar Association’s Section of Labor and Employment Law explains:

In respect to the determination of procedural arbitrability, the Supreme Court has ruled that questions of procedural arbitrability are for arbitrators to decide and not for the courts.  When a court has determined that the subject matter of a dispute is arbitrable (substantive arbitrability), the arbitrator is to decide all procedural questions that grow out of the dispute and bear on its final disposition.

There is good reason for this principle.  First, having an arbitrator decide whether a grievance is procedurally arbitrable saves considerable time and expense as compared to the court system making that determination.  Second, arbitrators can be expected to exercise the type of industrial relations experience that the parties contemplated when they provided for arbitration in the first place.   The ABA’s publication continued:

An American Bar Association committee has stated that ‘the function of the arbitrator to decide whether or not an allegation of nonarbitrability is sound could be compared to that of a trial judge who is asked to dismiss a complaint on motion for a directed verdict or for failure to state a cause of action.  This analogy indicates that a preliminary decision relating to arbitrability by the arbitrator is an inherent part of his duty.’  That arbitrators are capable of self-restraint is evidenced by the committee’s conclusion, based on examination of many awards, that ‘arbitrators generally are well aware of the limitations of their authority and scrupulously try to avoid any transgression of those limitations.’

What Does All Of This Mean?

Overcoming both a subject matter challenge and a procedural challenge to arbitration gets one’s foot in the door to allow for a determination on the merits of the case.  Most arbitration matters are not challenged in the manner described in this article, but some are.  It is important for the OPBA’s membership to understand that getting from the point of dispute into the arbitrator’s hearing room may not be a given and it may not necessarily be a smooth ride. As with any dispute or grievance, first check with your OPBA Director and your OPBA staff representative to help assess the best way to handle the matter.


The SERB 2012 Report on Health Insurance Costs

The Research and Training Section of the State Employment Relations Board has released its annual report on the cost of health insurance in Ohio’s public sector.  The 2012 report analyzes health care surveys completed by over 1,100 public employers in the state representing over 370,000 employees.  Such amounts to an 84% employer participation rate that is very similar to past reports.  The survey answers are representative of health care costs for employers and their employees as of January 1, 2012.  The report is necessary reading for members of a negotiating committee as it offers useful comparative data and background information for numerous healthcare issues. 

The statewide average for an employee’s share of the medical and prescription drug premium is 10.7% for single coverage and 11.5% for family coverage. In terms of actual dollars and cents, employees statewide are paying $55 per month for single coverage and $157 per month for family coverage.  Among political subdivisions, employees of townships pay the least amount at approximately 5.5% of the premium for single coverage and 4.7% for family coverage.  This translates into township employees paying $25 per month for single coverage and $64 per month for family coverage.  Employees in cities are paying 8.4% for single coverage and 8.2% for family coverage.   This amounts to city employees paying $43 per month for single coverage and $116 per month for family coverage.  Employees of counties are paying 13.1% of the premium for single coverage and 14.3% of the premium for family coverage.  These percentages require county employees with single coverage to pay $67 per month for single coverage and $198 per month for family coverage. 

SERB also analyzes employee contributions by eight geographical regions in the state.  Employees in the Dayton region pay the greatest share for medical and prescription drug insurance.  Employees with single coverage in the Dayton region are paying 12.9% of the premium while employees with family coverage pay 14.2% of the premium.  These employees are paying $65 per month for single coverage and $189 per month for family coverage.  The employee share of the premium is least in the Warren/Youngstown region with employees contributing 6.3% of the premium for family coverage and 6.5% of the premium for single coverage.  This equates to $34 per month for single coverage and $85 per month for family coverage.

It is also interesting to examine SERB’s report on medical plan design.  The report identifies the number of medical plans by deductible amounts.  Statewide, 30.3% of medical plans have deductibles for single in-network coverage in the amount of $100 or less, while 29.3% of the plans have deductibles for such coverage in an amount between $125 and $400.  For in-network family coverage, 28.9% of plans statewide have deductibles in the amount of $200 or less, while 29.3% of the plans have deductibles between $250 and $800.   After the deductible is reached, the percentage of costs paid by employees until they reach their out-of-pocket maximum amount is called co-insurance.  33.7% of plans statewide for in-network coverage do not require an employee co-insurance contribution while 31.2% of plans require a maximum employee co-insurance share of 10%.  The statewide median out-of-pocket maximum amount for in-network coverage is $1,225 for single coverage and $2,500 for family coverage. 

The SERB report also provides plan data for prescription drug costs.  The statewide median co-pay amounts for a 30 day drug supply under the “three tier” option most common in Ohio are as follows:  $10 for generic; $20 for brand and $40 for non-formulary brand.   SERB notes, as explained herein, that the employee premium contribution for prescription drug coverage is figured into the employee’s medical insurance premium contribution in 86.6% of reporting jurisdictions.  

While the employee contribution to health care costs is always of prime concern in labor negotiations, it is also useful to look at the history of premium costs for medical and prescription drug coverage.  For 2012, the average premium for medical and prescription drug coverage statewide is $506 for single coverage and $1,339 for family coverage.  This represents a 6.8% increase for single coverage and a 7.0% increase for family coverage.  SERB shows in its report that from 1993 through 1999, premium increases were modest at around 4% per year.  From 2000 through 2005, annual increases in premium amounts were close to 15%.  Increases have appeared to moderate since then, as the increases for 2012 were the largest since 2006 for family coverage and 2005 for single coverage. 

The report also touches on dental and vision insurance.  When dental insurance is carved out from medical and prescription drug coverage and employees contribute to the premium, employees statewide are paying $4.50 per month for single coverage and $13.70 per month for family coverage.   61% of the jurisdictions have annual dental maximums of $1,000 per person.  SERB notes that the plans can vary drastically with some employers reporting plans including $4,000 annual per person maximums.  When vision insurance is carved out and an employee is required to contribute, the employee is statewide paying $2.48 per month for single coverage and $8.06 per month for family coverage.

Opt-out provisions are often discussed by employees in anticipation of negotiations.  Under these provisions, employees are paid by the employer for not enrolling in the employer’s health insurance plan.  According to the SERB report, opt-out provisions are offered statewide in 44% of jurisdictions.  The average incentive payment for an employee opting-out of single coverage is $1,392 per year while the average incentive payment for an employee to opt-out of family coverage is $1,990 per year.  

High Deductible Health Plans are becoming more popular across the state, as they now make up 22.3% of plans statewide, compared to 17% in 2011.  When such plans are offered in conjunction with a Health Savings Account or Health Reimbursement Arrangement, 50% of employers annually contribute to the account of single coverage employees in an amount between $1,000 and $1,999.  14% of employers annually contribute to such accounts in an amount over $2,000, while 36% of employers contribute less than $1,000.  For family coverage employees, 47% of employers annually contribute to such accounts in an amount between $2,000 and $3,499.  19% of employers annually contribute to such accounts in an amount over $3,500, while 34% of employers contribute less than $2,000.   

I wrote a similar analysis for Police Beat of SERB’s 2010 report on the cost of health insurance in Ohio’s public sector.  A comparison of 2010 report with the 2012 report does not evidence cause for alarm.  Generally, whether by percentage or actual amounts, some averages of employee costs have modestly increased while others have remained constant or decreased.   While we cannot control the employer’s objectives at the table, the SERB report on healthcare provides a tool to measure the reasonableness of both our position and the employer’s position relative to external comparability.


Keep "The Promise".....Become a Member

by: Kathy Delaney

The Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial bears the names of 183 officers
from Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina and northern Summit counties who
have made the ultimate sacrifice and have given their lives while protecting the
citizens of their communities. This May, Jason Gresko's (Willoughby PD and
Cleveland Clinic PD) name will be added, making that number 184.
I wonder how many people told Jason's' wife and family during the days of his
wake and funeral that they "promise" they'll never forget him?
"We promise we will never forget."

Keep your promise..•..join the Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial Society
today so the memories of these brave officers will be honored and kept sacred, and
more importantly, so their survivors, friends and fellow officers have more than the
day of the wake and funeral to honor these heroes..
In addition to the Annual Police Memorial Commemoration, the Memorial Society
sponsors an annual law enforcement scholarship, works closely with the survivors to
support their various benefits to officers' scholarships, schedules speaking
engagements within the community as a forum for education to the public as to their
losses, and participates in federal and state campaigns to encourage donors to
choose this organization as their agency of choice for their annual campaigns.
Membership Amenities include a membership card, car decal and a $3,000
accidental death or dismemberment coverage from American Income Insurance.
Lifetime Members receive a limited edition lapel pin. Membership is open to all, not
limited to law enforcement.

A Lifetime Individual Membership is $200, Annual Individual Membership is
$20.....for 6 cents a day you can be part of "The Promise".