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Posted on Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 6:08 a.m.

No word yet from unions on Ann Arbor mayor's call for pay cut

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor officials are in the middle of labor negotiations with a majority of the city's eight bargaining units and a new tone has been set for those discussions.

Under a directive handed down by Mayor John Hieftje, every employee group in the city - union and non-union alike - will be asked to take a 3 percent pay cut next year to help lessen the blow on cuts to services.


Mayor John Hieftje made an attempt to reach out to the city's labor unions on Monday, asking for help confronting the city's staggering budget deficit.

Ryan J. Stanton |

That's a deal the unions will have to decide to go along with, and so far bargaining unit representatives aren't giving any indication whether they'll be willing.

"We really don't have anything to say until we've had an opportunity to discuss it amongst ourselves," said Pat Hughes, head of the 22-member police command officers union. "We're in contract negotiations now and I'm sure whatever the city is considering, it may be brought up."

Hieftje said he doesn't think a 3 percent pay cut is too much to ask for considering the tough times facing Ann Arbor, whose budget situation is similar to many other cities in Michigan right now.

"This is something I thought might be palatable and certainly in this economy I think everybody can understand it," Hieftje said. "I'm very hopeful that people will recognize the need here. Everybody is being quite sincere."

Hiefjte, who makes about $45,852 a year as mayor, is proposing an across-the-board cut for all city employees - mayor and council members included. That would save about $875,000 in the city's general fund next year and $1.5 million total in all city funds.

According to city records, Ann Arbor city government has 755 active employees, 186 of which are non-union. Most of the unionized work force is organized under AFSCME, which has 278 members, and the AAPOA police officers union, which has 121 members. Another 90 are in the firefighters union and 43 are in the Teamsters.


The city has been focusing on renegotiating a handful of contracts that expired in June. What has not been discussed is reopening contracts with AFSCME, whose members are under contract through June 2011 and scheduled to receive 3 percent raises in July.

Nicholas Nightwine, president of AFSCME, said he's waiting to see what happens with the other bargaining units before his union even discusses giving up a promised raise. AFSCME has a reputation for being cooperative with the city when it comes to collective bargaining.

"They have not asked us to come to the table and open up that contract yet and I'd like to see them finish working with the other bargaining units before they asked us," he said. "I can understand where (the mayor) is coming from, but we are already locked in for a 3 percent pay increase in July. The city by law cannot take that away from us."

Hieftje said a modest pay cut would be a good first step as the city looks to trim 30 percent of its budget over three years based on a new financial forecast. That includes an additional $3.3 million in cuts this year and $5.4 million next year over and above what was previously planned.

The city is looking to follow the lead of Washtenaw County, whose labor unions recently agreed to reopen contracts and give up promised 3 percent raises next year to help close a $30 million gap in the county's two-year budget. The county's ability to wrest concessions from its labor groups helped avoid mass layoffs and balanced the budget without draconian cuts to services.

"The county was successful with some of their bargaining units in making this work, but it was easier I think for them because they had a 3 percent raise built into those contracts," Hieftje said. "Because we don't have that increase built into our contracts, for the most part, this would be a decrease. But I think the idea is certainly well worth exploring, and this would help us a great deal."

City officials said they've had better luck dealing with some labor unions than others. Specifically, they said, it's been a challenge dealing with police and firefighter unions because of Michigan Public Act 312, a 1969 law that provides for compulsory arbitration of labor disputes in municipal police and fire departments.

Hieftje said the law unfairly favors the unions and has led to situations where - when there's an impasse in negotiations - a third-party arbitrator gets to decide whether to give the union a raise without accounting for the municipality's ability to pay. Hieftje said he's hopeful new legislation being introduced in Lansing will eliminate that kind of binding arbitration.

Bill Stanford, president of the police officers union, declined to comment on the mayor's call for a pay cut, saying his union is in the middle of contract negotiations and he hasn't talked with his board yet. Hughes, of the command officers union, noted the police department already has made many sacrifices in recent years.

Tom Crawford, the city's chief financial officer, said a 3 percent cut needs to be fully explored as the city looks to confront a complex budget problem that is mostly the result of a bad economy, which has led to decreases in state revenue sharing and property tax revenues.

"As we look at this problem that we have, I suspect the resolution is going to involve a bit of everything and this is certainly one item that needs to be on the table for discussion," he said.

Hieftje agreed his proposal is only one piece of the puzzle and, even with pay cuts, some layoffs and service reductions probably can't be avoided.

"There obviously will be a lot more things that we're going to have to do," he said. "Our hole is too deep. If people wanted to talk about deeper pay cuts, we'd be happy to talk about that, too."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Fri, Dec 11, 2009 : 9:52 a.m.

I don't understand what all the debate is about. His dishonesty the major has spoken. nuffsaid. The workers have to except pay cuts and layoffs. The citizens have to except less in the way of public service. But they will recieve ugly art. Which will be displayed for all to enjoy. The city council will then go about there most sacred duty. Spending like sailors on leave as they go.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 5:21 p.m.

Ryan Stanton- Why does it seem like we are not getting the entire story? I always thought that the madia was suppose to be on the side of the people. Why is there no mention of the hiring of a new P&D Manager in this article? Why is there no mention of Human Resources leasing a space on the 4th floor of the City Center Building for negotiations with the AAFD when there is plenty of space in City owned buildings? How about the fact the City plans on hiring three managers to replace the two that left recently in Field Operations? How about the purchase of 11 flat screen TV's at the Wheeler Service Center that are hardly ever used. I think that if you questioned more City employees and investigated further into these budget matters it will come out that there has been a lot of bad spending mostly on the part of City Managers.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 5:12 p.m.

Those salaries do not appear to include overtime. It would be interesting to see if the overall budget went up because we are cutting jobs and paying overtime.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 4:03 p.m.

I did it goes by yearly salary not by hour. Most people can't break it down themselves. For example: Detective III about $73,000/year =$35+/hour Senior Officers around $64k = $30.77 per hour, Project Delivery Manager $90k/yr= $43+/hr


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 3:44 p.m.

BornNRaised. When you have to pay $10 for a hamburger that now costs $2 because minimum wage $15 per hour. It's getting there. The more we raise minimum wage the higher the price of goods are going to be. They should lock minimum wage at $4.95/ per hour. If you don't want to work for that you don't have to. If they would lower minimum wage to $4.95 more small business would open up, creating more jobs. Taking more people out of the unemployment line. What if Because labor costs are to high you just lost your job. State is bankrupt and no unemployment is available. You can't scrape up four quarters for a $1 menu they don't exist. They are the $6 menu now.

Thick Candy Shell

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 3:32 p.m.

Refer to Ryan's post above. It already has all of the info


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 3:28 p.m. should FOIA get a list of all the different Jobs in the city of ann arbor and the wages and put, Like Street maintenance $##-## /hr. Police Sergeant $##-$## /Hr. Police Officer III...etc. I think people would be shocked to see how much they actually make.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 3:19 p.m.

Like someone said on A2 News blog last year. Most people have a hard time thinking for themselves. So they have to Join a cult(Democratic, republican, etc... party)to help them decide for them. Until we start thinking independently we will be in trouble.

Thick Candy Shell

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 3:16 p.m.

@wld1: $19.00 is a highly inflated wage????????


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 3:12 p.m.

UnionMan1- when I worked at the post office and U of M and saw the same thing. They had to cut part time jobs because the union was complaining and threatening litigation, that their people should be doing the job, not lower waged part timers. So instead of hiring 2 part time people at $8.00 per hour that could work 2 different shifts they had to hire one union worker that made $19.00 that could only work 1 shift. Leaving the other one short handed. at that time minimum wage was Almost $5.00 per hour. Not to mention it is not a fair wage, it is an highly inflated wage. Like I said, Greed makes people ignorant.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 3:02 p.m.

I do not see a budget for the bonuses given to administrators. Where might that budget be???


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 2:55 p.m.

I wonder how many of those "budgeted" positions are actually filled.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 2:22 p.m.

Since the golf courses cost half a million a year to the general fund, maybe we can cross train the maintenance workers to do emergency rescue at car crashes, or have the firefighters work from the golf courses, and maintain lawns in their down time.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 2:21 p.m.

Looking at the payroll record, I think I should have been a firefighter or police officer -- as most of them make over $100k. As do many other city employees. I echo Boots' comment - why does the city need SEVEN full time attorneys? I had no idea that so many city employees are so highly compensated, and I bet that most other taxpayers don't either. Clearly, we citizens are funding a bloated and over-paid bureaucracy. 3% pay cut is not nearly enough. The city's entire budget shortfall should be covered by larger and more equitable, graduated salary cuts -- not just for the firefighters, but for ALL employees (certainly those making $100k+).


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 1:49 p.m.

To all you readers and commentators - please research what you are saying before implying what you believe to be the truth - it isn't the workers for the City of Ann Arbor that you should be blaming - it is all the people on top - why are there so many supervisors, managers, etc? Check out how many attorneys are on the city payroll - and the city spent a huge sum of monies fighting the workers for thier Me2 clause and the workers won - and they deserved to win - but instead of paying it out - the administration is taking it to the supreme court - guess who gets to pay for that? When this is all said and done - the city will have spent more on lawyers and attorneys than if they had paid the workers what the courts had already told them to pay. It is the city Administrator and Mayor that need to be cut!

John Galt

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 1:43 p.m.

Don't hold you breath looking for the Unions to give any concessions. Will likely need to simply lay-off the number needed to make the budget balance.

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 1:26 p.m.

For information on salary and benefits provided to city employees, follow this link to see a breakdown of each position by fund:


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 12:46 p.m.

Gee what a shock.I wonder why the Mayor will not take a pay cut and the city council.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 12:26 p.m.

Also, don't forget that the City is talking about laying off Union employees at the same time they are doing interviews for a new P&D manager. I didn't read about that in this story. Is Ann in the Citys pocket? Give all the information, not just half the story.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 12:05 p.m.

@WLD1- You just don't get it! Unions don't stand in the way of hiring people ot a lower rate. The Unions make sure that people get hired at a fair living wage. It sounds like you have no idea how Unions work and what they stand for. It would be a waste of time to explain it to you. In one ear and right out the other!

Brian Kuehn

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 12:04 p.m.

There is no doubt that we all share some responsibility for the current situation: citizens of Ann Arbor, elected officials, city employees & managers - union and non-union. We, the voters of Ann Arbor, have elected the people who run the city. If the city has been managed poorly, we had the opportunity to make a change (of course, many of us who were eligible to vote chose to not participate in the election process). Some of our former and current elected officials would seem to have made some dubious decisions (1% art set-aside, signing on to a union agreement that grants a 3% raise in 2010, purchasing park land we can't maintain, etc...). Our unions seem to be set on killing the golden goose that up until now allowed them a certain degree of job security and a fairly good pay & benefit package. We are not going to get out of this mess without some cooperation and sacrifice by all parties involved. I believe the current operating millage is not at its maximum. If the unions give a little, the non-union employees give a little, and the adminstration works hard at making some tough cuts, it seems only right that maybe we property owners give a little. No one likes being played for a chump. Personally, I don't want to pay one dollar more in taxes unless I see some sacrifice coming from everyone else. However, if there is an honest attempt to share the pain, I'll pay, too.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:50 a.m.

Yes I do volunteer a lot of my time to help people and companies out.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:48 a.m.

cars not ares darn auto correct.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:47 a.m.

I know, Ann Arbor is not safe anymore, the city just wants us to think it is. The more people make the less employees there are going to be. And like always the unions get in the way of hiring people at lower wages to take up the slack and prevent overtime.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:43 a.m.

Its not hatred towards city workers it is hatred towards the political bargaining process that allows people to take advantage of tax payers money. There is a reason why I buy foreign ares. I think the American executives are to greedy and so are the unions. Same reason an why you shop at wal-mart and O'rielly's auto parts. You refuse to pay the outrageous prices of parts made by people making more then $2.00 an hour.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:41 a.m. think Ann Arbor is safe now? You'd better start reading the Ann Arbor Observer crime stats. There are no safe havens.Just a word to the wise. How many years did city employees go without contracts? During that time how many administrators got pay raises and bonuses? NEVER NEVER will it happen in the public sector that a raise is given to a group of bargained for employees that it is not given to non-bargained way or the other. In the at-will or non-bargained for sector a raise can be given to anyone, anytime. And.....they are. All of the spin and hoopla is coming from the non-bargained for group. What do you really EXPECT them to say? D'oh! And although not in this public sector, I spent most of my life in the non bargained for public sector. Been there, spun that. It's almost laughable what people believe when it served to them with a dash of "union-hating" on the side.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:33 a.m.

Isn't that the whole reason people have jobs? Do you work for free? Most of the City employees are on call 24/7. When you are at home warm in your bed City employees are out plowing, fixing water main breaks, fixing street lights, clearing trees that fall and many other things. They work Holidays, their kids birthdays, and anytime that work needs to be done. Public employees are some of the hardest working people in the work industry and all they do is get bashed on by people that don't take the time to learn the whole story.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:28 a.m.

I think that the Upper levels of the city need pay cuts as well especially the City attorneys.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:24 a.m.

Actually the U of M should help plow all the city streets that their Police department patrols and pulls people over on. That would help the city a lot.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:22 a.m.

Actually in general the employees care about getting a big fat paycheck. Been there, done that.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:20 a.m.

What they need to do is limit the amount of overtime each officer can make each year. And Not take advantage of the system. And make the city go bankrupt. Unless the money for overtime is coming from an outside source like the movie industry. As long as the Tax payers are not paying for overtime. Also the unions usually will not allow departments to hire a bunch of part time officers at lower pay to help take up the slack. That practice needs to go.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:15 a.m.

Questions for City Council: Do you really believe the problem is with the city staff, and the solution is to cut their pay and still have reductions in services? How much time/money have YOU wasted sending developers back to the drawing board over and over? How many hours of city staff time is wasted in this churning? How much time/money has been wasted due to YOUR extremely poor behavior in the e-mail extravaganza? IT staff have been heavily burdened to support all the requests for disclosure. How much city staff time do YOU intend to waste on the library lot extravaganza? You've shut down a functioning parking lot and created a giant mess -- For What??? There's no plan, there's no money, there's no sense. City Council -- The reductions begin with YOU.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:14 a.m.

What I am saying is that 3% is not enough. And that there will be layoffs. Because the unions won't go for what really needs to happen to save jobs.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:14 a.m.

@WLD1- I am amazed by your comment that all the Unions care about is money. The employees do care about the City and the public. It sounds to me like your the kind of person that hates Unions and no matter what evidence comes your way you will never change your mind. What happened? Were you denied a Union job somewhere because Union work is mostly skilled labor. I think maybe you should get all the facts before making a statement like that. The Union employees of this great City love what they do and who they do it for. They just want to be treated in a fair way, with a fair wage.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:10 a.m.

I forget America comes 29th in the world when it comes to intellectual test scores ( Just go to You Tube and Watch ABC's 20/20's Stupid in America). If people haven't realize it is Greed that is taking our country down. The more a person makes in an area the higher the cost of living. City Has Budgets, If the city has an budget of $1million and the employees make $100,000. Then they can only afford to pay 10 employees and the rest have to get fired or layed off. If these employees made $50,000 then they could get 20 employees. And if they only had 15 employees they can hire a few more. Giving some unemployed people a job. Most of you people are narrow minded, greedy and self-centered and don't think about the hole picture. That include our politicians especially our executives. In other word the more you make now might leave you nothing in the future. The taxes are to high in the city of ann arbor look at all the property that the U of M is buying now tax exempt. - The falling property values in ann arbor. People fed up with all the high taxes. All the forclosures in ann arbor. Where do you think the money is going to come from to pay all these huge wages. I am going to tell you what is going to happen Lay-offs. Making Ann Arbor as safe as Ypsilanti and Inkster.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 11:01 a.m.

WOW I am amazed at all of the hatred towards the city workers, union and non-union. If everyone will remember is takes 2 to tango especially in regards to union contracts, the final decision on the signing of any contract comes from the City Administrator, Tom Crawford and the Mayor. And to all of those critics of the employees - if we all remember back to early spring, Roger Fraser and Steven Postemas (city attorney) BOTH received a 3 % bonus (not raise) but bonus - so IF you take the 3% away, they loose nothing from their respective salaries! it is only their bonuses. Do not get me wrong the economy is in a tough spot for the nation, state and cities, if change is to come it has to start at the top and work downward, not from the bottom up!!


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:48 a.m.

No actually I think the Unions Do, The city being as weak as it is usually goes along with the unions request to prevent problems. The Unions could care less about the people of the city. All they care about is making money. The more a union worker makes - The more the union makes.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:47 a.m.

The entire District Court is non-union. As well as the Court, I believe most if not all of the City Attorney's office, Pension, Human Resources and probably IT staff are non-union as well. As I stated in comments in a previous article, non-union employees have been paying for a portion of health care premiums for about five years. (I've yet to see where Police and Fire have.) Around the same time, they lost two sick days and went to a pay for performance structure. All step raises were eliminated. Non-union employees used to usually get what raises AFSME got prior to this period. This year they got none, and you know they'll be handed the 3% decrease next year. This isn't just about management. There are several line workers who are non-union because of the types of jobs they do and the departments they work in.

Mumbambu, Esq.

Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:17 a.m.

Why don't we just stop paying City employees altogether?


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 10:03 a.m.

I would like very much to see WHO those 186 people are, and what the salaries and benefits are for that group. While the mayor focuses on the unions, he isn't addressing the AT WILL employees....25% of the city "work" force. Cut an administrator...if someone picks up the slack NO overtime pay required. Common sense tells me that if I cut a firefighter, someone else will have to pick up the OVERTIME. I'm not, nor have I ever been in that occupation, but I'm guessing the city doesn't intend to just NOT show up at fires. So it seems like a bit of a shell game...."cut" a worker and then pay another worker overtime. The appearance is a cut, when in reality it may cost more. Trust me, I worked in the public is the name of the game.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 9:45 a.m.

Ryan: It would help us less-informed folk if we knew how much firefighters and police are paid. For that matter, if there a link to information about salaries and benefits of all city employees (or at least top management) would enable a more rational discussion. Thanks.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:47 a.m.

Mayor, council, and leaders could lead with distinct action instead of powerless rhetoric:. 50% pay cuts for mayor and council: Return their function to advisory policymaking as defined by City charter. Leave managing to administrators. Management by mayor and council equals paralyzing, inefficient micromanaging, increasing City inefficiency by at least 1/3. This change alone could have a shocking influence on budget problems. It could also boost City worker morale in a profound way.. 20% pay cuts for top 10% salaries of managers, administrators, and professionals.. 10% pay cuts for next 15% salaries of managers, administrators, and professionals.. 5% pay cuts for everyone else.. End City funded pensions and matches.. In this scenario, it is likely that no one loses a job.. City services continue, productivity increases due to micromanagement cessation by mayor and council.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 8:26 a.m.

Ann Arbor, I agree...while the city workers are out in the cold and nasty weather, the "186" are inside spinning the media.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 7:58 a.m.

Look outside....the union members have been a little busy lately, especially last night. Perhaps the Mayor hasn't noticed. How pathetic....


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 7:34 a.m.

Wait....186 out of 755 are NON-union? I'm assuming those cuts have been taken already then, correct? And I am assuming those are "administrative-managerial" positions, is that correct? It would appear there is one administrator watching every four employees work. Maybe that could be cut in half and one administrator could watch eight employees work. The stress is on union cuts....perhaps if the administrators weren't the ones looking for cuts, we could start hacking at the 186 and set an example.


Thu, Dec 10, 2009 : 6:51 a.m.

Act 312 Facts: Prior to Act 312 several Police and Fire Unions went onstrike leaving their jurisdictions unprotected. Public Act 312 prohibits Police and Fire Unions from striking. Instead it provides for a binding arbitration process that is essentially like a civil suit before a three person panel. The city's ability to pay IS a primary consideration (Sorry, Mr. Mayor). The decision is binding upon BOTH parties. I posted the link for the latest AA arbitration with the police union on the last post. Here is part of the Arbitrator's decision... "This conclusion, as to the financial stability of the City of Ann Arbor, is based upon the fact the City, to their credit, has not relied upon an argument of its inability to grant wage increases to its Police Officers, but has instead rightly cautioned that current financial pressures have increased in all levels of government. They point out significant spending reductions are necessary. It should be recognized the City's revenues come primarily from property taxes and state shared revenue." According to the ruling the issue was considered. The City did NOT argue that they could not afford the raises, Mr. Mayor. Did the City do this, knowing they would lose, to give a raise without having to answer to the voters (Act 312 made me do it!) That said I think the Unions should take a cuts. If they wait the cuts will have to be deeper. More people will lose their jobs. But lets not just blame the process and the Unions. At least not before they have had a chance to discuss it and answer. Here is the link again should you wish to check my quote. It is at the top of page 9. The arbitrator also gives an explaination of Act312 in the preamble to his decision. And the City won all the other issues (Which apparently they argued.)