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Posted on Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 5:52 a.m.

Records show glaring disparities between different Ann Arbor labor groups' benefit packages

By Ryan J. Stanton

It's early on a Friday morning and Ann Arbor City Council Member Stephen Rapundalo is shaking his head, a look of distaste frozen in his eyes.

He's staring at a new report on city employee compensation, pausing at a chart showing what individual workers in each of the city's nine different labor groups contribute toward the cost of their health care benefits. He can't get past the zeros on the page.

"Where do I sign up?" says Rapundalo, D-2nd Ward and chairman of the council's labor committee. "It's unbelievable. In this day and age, this is kind of unrealistic."


Stephen Rapundalo

Ryan J. Stanton |

When it comes to health care benefits provided to city employees, the disparities between different labor groups are glaringly obvious.

By comparison to non-union salaried workers and members of some of the city's smaller unions, Ann Arbor's firefighters, police officers and AFSCME union members enjoy fairly cozy contracts where they can pay sometimes three to six times less for the same medical care, city records show.

As the city faces yet another year of having to trim millions from its budget, Ann Arbor officials are continuing to ask employees for concessions, but they're slow to happen. Ideally, the city would like to move all employees onto the same health care plan.

"You see an obvious disparity and our goal is to diminish that disparity," said Robyn Wilkerson, the city's labor relations director.

The unions are quick to defend their benefits by arguing they were either bargained in good faith with the city or decided by a state arbitrator. Matt Schroeder, president of the firefighters union, brings up the fact that firefighters agreed to give back 4 percent of their pay last year.

"You know, we were the only labor group to do that," he said. "As far as overall compensation packages go, they're fairly bargained for and that's what a contract is — the consensus of both management and the union of what was fair. So, I mean, that stands on its own."

City records suggest Ann Arbor paid $5.8 million more for health insurance in 2009 than it would have if its benefit plans were in line with the rest of the marketplace. That's about double the general fund deficit the city is grappling with right now.

Glaring disparities

The 200-plus members of Ann Arbor's police and fire unions are enrolled in a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan where they pay a low deductible of $250 for an individual or $500 for a family. That's if and when they need medical care. They have no premiums coming out of their paychecks, and they pay no co-insurance on medical bills.

"When our broker first saw some of our plans, he actually said, 'This is not health care insurance — this is health care reimbursement,'" Wilkerson said. "Insurance means people assume some risk. People aren't assuming any risk."

The 260-plus workers represented by AFSCME enjoy similar benefits. Their deductibles come out to $225 per person, with no co-insurance and no out-of-pocket premiums.

The rest of the city's workforce isn't so lucky. That includes about 141 non-union employees, 43 employees represented by the Teamsters, 7 police professionals with their own bargaining unit and 2 deputy police chiefs with their own bargaining unit.

Those employees have a choice between two health insurance options — a "high plan" and a "low plan." The plans were forced on non-union employees last July, and the smaller unions followed suit and agreed through negotiations to switch over.

City officials say a majority of the employees opt for the high plan, in which they pay $44.31 per month from their paychecks for individual coverage or $119.63 for a family. Because they're sharing the premiums, the deductible is set at $300 for an individual or $600 for a family.

But they also must pay 20 percent co-insurance on medical bills after the deductible is subtracted — with an out-of-pocket max set at $1,200 for an individual or $2,500 for a family.

The low plan is set up similarly, but instead of monthly paycheck contributions, it includes high deductibles of $1,000 for an individual or $2,000 for a family.

Those who opt for the low plan still must pay the same 20 percent co-insurance on medical bills — with an out-of-pocket max of $2,400 for an individual or $4,800 for a family.

"We would like them to all be in the low plan, which is why we have no paycheck contribution attached to it," said Kelly Beck, the city's employee benefits supervisor. "But it's a high-deductible plan, so they are assuming more risk if they enroll."

In response to a request from, the city provided records showing what the total out-of-pocket costs would be for members of each labor group under three scenarios.

The first looks at a single person who has four office visits, one ER visit, one monthly generic drug, plus $500 in diagnostic services over a one-year period. An employee on the high plan would pay $1,042, while an employee on the low plan would pay $770. Meanwhile, a firefighter or police officer would pay $400, and an AFSCME member would pay $375.

The second scenario assumes two people have six office visits, five prescriptions (3 generic, 2 brand name), and $5,000 in diagnostic services. An employee on the high plan would pay $3,216, while an employee on the low plan would pay $3,010. Meanwhile, a firefighter would pay $620, a police officer would pay $660, and an AFSCME member would pay $635.

The third example looks at what might happen in a slightly worse scenario for a family of four. It assumes eight office visits, seven prescriptions (4 generic, 3 brand name), and $14,000 in diagnostic services. An employee on the city's high plan would pay $5,896, while an employee on the low plan would pay $6,120. Meanwhile, a firefighter would pay $1,020, a police officer would pay $1,080, and an AFSCME member would pay $1,480.


Matt Schroeder

The police officers union issued a statement signed by President John Elkins and Vice President Jamie Adkins pointing out their current health care benefits are what the city demanded and were awarded two years ago by a state arbitrator.

"Even though the employer won their demand for a reduction in our health care benefits, they are again seeking further reductions," they wrote. "In addition, due to exposure to high levels of radon and asbestos with the police department facilities of the Guy Larcom building, our membership has exhibited a higher than normal need for health care. We believe these benefits should be given an adequate amount of time before being changed again."

They added the union is sensitive to the city's budget woes, and they're not requesting any increase in benefits or pay, but rather an extension of the contract that expired in June 2009.

They also point out the department has seen a 36 percent staffing reduction in recent years.

Nancy Sylvester, president of AFSCME Local 369, could not be reached for comment.


This chart shows the average earnings of members of each of the city of Ann Arbor's eight collective bargaining units, as well as salaried non-union employees. The figures come from last year's W-2 forms, which include both base pay and overtime.

Lack of incentive to bargain

As the city seeks equality in the benefits offered to employees, Ann Arbor officials say they're up against a cumbersome state law known as Public Act 312.

The law provides for compulsory arbitration of labor disputes in municipal police and fire departments. When it was put in place in 1969, it was seen as a solution to a problem: By sending disputing parties to arbitration, cities could avoid public safety strikes, and police and fire personnel would be guaranteed an arbitrator would consider their requests.

But now that binding arbitration is the norm for settling police and fire contracts, cities all across Michigan are reporting problems getting their public safety unions to the table to make concessions, and negotiations can drag on for months or years. Several cities, including Ann Arbor, are pushing for reforms to Act 312 at the state level.

"I think when people start to understand the intricacies of 312, and what we're up against and how long it takes, they'll have a better understanding of why change is so hard to get," Wilkerson said. "And you're not going to get it quickly."

The city recently filed an Act 312 petition to begin the process of binding arbitration with the police officers union. The last contract — which was settled by an arbitrator in February 2009 and included a retroactive pay raise going back to July 2006— expired in June 2009.

The city and the firefighters union have been in negotiations for over a year and have used the services of a state mediator on multiple occasions. The last contract expired in June 2010.

Nancy Niemela, senior assistant city attorney and a member of the city's negotiations team, said there's little incentive for public safety unions to come to the table to make concessions when the terms of their former contracts remain until new agreements are in place. In the unions' minds, the longer they hold out, the longer they keep their current health care.

Wilkerson doesn't blame them for that.

"Yeah, there's finger-wagging at the union," she said. "But quite honestly, they're playing the game as the game is outlined. So if we want any place to put blame, look at the 312 process and say, 'Don't hate the player, hate the game.'"

Niemela said there is some good news for cities.

"Looking at the 312 decisions that come down, in general, they're perhaps turning a little bit toward the employer now with the health care thing," she said. "But usually it's kind of a split. Usually the employer gets something, the employees get something."

While the firefighters haven't conceded on health care, city officials do give them credit for concessions they made last year. They're the only group to take a pay cut.

In an effort to avoid layoffs, the firefighters agreed to a new six-month contract last January that included a 3-percent wage reduction and a 1-percent increase in pension contributions. City officials said that was appreciated, but they still ended up cutting five firefighter positions.

"What I think we wanted was to go beyond that and continue with that kind of concession, which they didn't want to do," Rapundalo said. "And here we are."

The city's contract with AFSCME expires June 30, and so far there's no agreement on a new contract. The last contract included 3 percent wage increases in both July 2009 and July 2010.

The city's ultimatum

Despite the city's work force being slashed by nearly 30 percent over the last decade, employee costs have continued to go up in Ann Arbor. But that appears to be leveling off finally — to a point where increases in health care costs are being offset by declines in payroll.

Total pay for all 700-plus city employees is about $53.2 million this year, according to the city's adopted budget. That's down from $55.5 million last year and $56.5 million the year before. Benefits for both active and retired employees total about $62.7 million this year.

Overall, city spending totals $345.5 million this year, a figure that includes several internal service funds. The city's general fund budget is about $81.5 million.

City officials are working to close a $2.4 million general fund shortfall for the fiscal year starting July 1, but the hole may be growing larger.

The city expects to lose anywhere from $500,000 to $1.7 million if state cuts proposed by the governor are adopted. The city also projects payments from the Downtown Development Authority could come in as much as $700,000 less than previously expected.

City Administrator Roger Fraser announced recently that departments staffed largely by workers who are represented by unions that have refused to make concessions — particularly on health care — may see deeper cuts as a percentage of their budgets.

That's a threat mainly directed toward AFSCME and the police and fire unions. And by that, the city is giving the unions an ultimatum: Either agree to concessions and change health care plans, or lose more members to layoffs come July 1.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 5:23 a.m.

I'd also like to add how disorienting it is to read about how well off firefighters are. Our family of six can manage on $54,000 a year by buying almost everything resale, doing without cable, driving old vehicles, and going without other little luxuries. Some things my kids get, and a lot of things they don't. My husband works on weekends, holidays and for 24 hour shifts. He misses a LOT of our family life. And, on occasion, actually does risk his life. It works for us because I have never needed much materialistically, and because he feels such a great responsibility to helping others. Even with me working, it is hard to make ends meet. And, while overall our family is healthy, I do have children who have some minor special medical needs. These have resulted in thousands of dollars worth of medical bills that we have to pay out of our own pockets. Having no job would certainly be worse, and I feel for those who continue to struggle with employment. But, I just wanted to shed some light on what it is really like to raise a family on this kind of salary and health care. It is comfortable in the respect that having less would be (and has been) far more difficult. It feels good to be able to cover the basics, even when that reality is always being threatened. It is hard to leave Ann Arbor, both of us having been born here, however, obviously if he loses his job, we will not be able to afford our home here. Additionally, I fear the disintegration of services here - there is a lot as an Ann Arbor tax payer that I could give up, but I frankly do not feel as safe with fire stations being closed. I know that my best bet in an emergency is the fire department getting to me. Anything that makes it more difficult for them to get to me, lessens my chances of getting the help that I need when I need it. Since that is the direction I see Ann Arbor going in, I have to look at other options where the cost is lower and the services at least as good.


Sat, Apr 9, 2011 : 4:53 a.m.

Well, my comment here is late having gotten to this article via the article on wages. And, while there is a lot that I would like to comment on, including my agreement with the above poster, I just want to express my continuing sadness that somehow all of us working class have been fooled into fighting one another. That is the most disheartening thing that I see throughout these articles and comments. In the listed wages, the firefighters that I recognize are making between approximately $54,000 and $69,000. How is the average pay in the list above for a firefighter approximately $80,000? If it is because of overtime, why is the city laying off more firefighters? If there are not enough firefighters, there obviously will be overtime worked. How can the city continue to get away with making bad administrative decisions, and using the media to blame the workers? As far as the figures above go, I don't see how much money those who have higher deductibles and co-payments earn. When I look at the differences paid for health care, I have to wonder what the salary is of the person who is paying more in the "high plan", in the examples above. These "other city employees" (who are "not so lucky") pay between $400. and $5,000. more for their health care in the examples above. So, even using the worse case scenario, if they make even $5,000 more a year than a $54,000 firefighter (or $59,000 a year) they are actually better off financially.

Joe Oliver

Thu, Mar 17, 2011 : 1:34 p.m.

I sent this to the reporter and editor but never got a reply. This is my comment: What thorough reporting by Ryan Stanton on city benefits. Too bad it was biased. Did all the editors get laid off too? I'm very disappointed with the slant of this story from the start. The story uses language that makes it clear where the reporter stands on the issue. "a look of distaste frozen in his eyes," because this is wrong! He could have started with a police officer who breathed the radon mentioned having health problems and trying to get coverage. Would that have been right? No. That would have slanted the other way. Instead, he quotes Rapudalo saying "where do I sign up?" as if he is trying to get in on some scam. Why not simply present the facts? Why is trying to get me to draw the same conclusion you've so obviously drawn, that the city police officers, firefighters and teamsters should not have these benefits packages? Should they have them? I really don't know. I want to draw my own conclusion based on the facts, but the story is slanted. On one hand, these people do risk their lives and have a lot more health problems so I support them having a little bit better benefits than the average worker. Personally, I struggle to pay benefits and so think it's not really fair, I work hard and deserve the kind of benefits they have. But I don't know what to make of it because the story is so biased that I can't trust it. If it was supposed to be an opinion piece, label it that way. If it was supposed to be news, the reporter needs a lesson in fairly reporting the news and needs an editor because I would expect any experienced editor would not let this story stand.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 10:36 p.m.

These salaries are obscene! Police officers are earning double what the Mayor is paid and more than the average of about $50,000.00 that Detroit police officers earn.


Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 1:54 p.m.

The Mayor is a part-time job. Nice comparable.

David Paris

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 9:38 p.m.

I like to view the glass as half-full. In order to even the playing field, I am in full support of all other union employers matching the benefits of the Police & Firefighters (although, if any group exclusively SHOULD get those benefits, it would be them), as well as any employers of the private sector. The attacks on the working class must stop, end of story.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 12:58 p.m.

The problem is that we have set our standards too high. When our police and firefighters are hired we require them to have high levels of technical training and, at least in the case of police officers, college educations. Then we refuse to higher them unless background screening show that they have never been involved in questionable activity. They must then pass physical proficiency tests that place them in the top 2-5% of our society. Finally, they are screened for psychological isssues to ensure that they can handle the years of stress. Most of us do not. Let's drop these requirements to the same as those found in other dangerous jobs like construction and fishing. Then we will not have to pay them as much.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 4:01 a.m.

Operating under the old agreement is awlays beneficial, prolonging the inevitable so to speak. Why wouldn't you go to an arbitrator, even if you will lose later on.

Omega Man

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 1:10 a.m.

I appreciate everyone who provides service to me: when I vote, clean water at my home and business, refuse services, traffic control, and all the myriad other services that local government provides. I ALSO appreciate the person who checks me out at the grocery store, the wait staff at a local restaurant, carpenter and painters, etc. These people don't have generous health care and pensions, yet they are also just as critical to a well functioning society. Should they work longer to pay local taxes so that local unions members are able to live less expensively? We MUST continue to make decisions that are tough - I don't want the young, fit fire fighters and police officers to be laid off because their elders are not willing to share in their costs of health care. Union leaders: please stop thinking short term about your own special interests and focus on the next generation!


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 12:18 p.m.

Short term thinking? Where do you get your facts from? I know I sound like a broken record, but some people are just deaf. FD gave 4% when the mayor asked for 3. We were told by the HEAD of hr, "That's your own fault for doing that." When we asked why that 4% wasn't being carried through in our budget. We then lost 6 people that aren't being replaced. That equals another 4.2%. The city is now saying they want 4% from all departments. That total 12.2%. Oh, and by the way, they're telling us they're laying off 10 more people. FD - 12.2% concessions and loss of employees. Other city departments - 0 and 0 And you tell us to think? Try telling your council members to give it a whirl first.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 12:18 p.m.

Too late Omega Man! When you don't hire for years you don't have youngsters. There is only one Ann Arbor Police officer under 30. The average age of the department is mid-40's.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 4:03 a.m.

Communism is the answer!!!


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 2:04 a.m.

Omega man- while I appreciate everyone that provides services to me also you must look at the level of responsiblity the job carries. Does a painter or grocery cashier have the same education and responsiblity as a police officer or firefighter. Why doesn't everyone make the same as a doctor then? You should be compensated appropriately.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 12:32 a.m.

I would love to see do the same type of story about the extremely generous retirement plans that city employees have. That is the other area that is costing millions.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 11:57 p.m.

TIME for the union to form there own health insurance company...when a familie is forced to pay over $ 1200. a months for a smal business men etc. Michigan needs more Insurance companies then blue cross .. The city should not be in businees , that part belongs to the union ..


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 11:01 p.m.

This is not about fairly negotiated contracts. PA 312 makes the negotiation and arbitration favor unions. Repeal PA 312.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 5:44 p.m.

This was nationwide. And it was conducted by a 3rd. Not the IAFF. Number was actually a little over 65%. Yes, I rounded up.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 12:22 p.m.

@ Born and Raised. I heard of an IAFF study being done that preliminarily showed PA312 was about 65% favorable to the City. Is your study local or state-wide? FYI- I don't know if this was a study of police and fire or fire alone. It was only contract arbitrations.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 12:14 p.m.

PA312 favors on the side of cities around 70% of the time. I know my facts, do you know yours? Facts you make up, are not facts.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 6:34 a.m.

How does PA 312 favor the unions


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 10:38 p.m.

Don't worry, soon all cities, municipalities, and school districts will be operating in deficit mode so more knowledgeable financial managers will be appointed to solve all these petty problems. Thanks Big Brother, I can hardly wait.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 10:14 p.m.

As a piece of reporting, this is an embarrassment. And the editorial oversight is negligent. The analysis is incomplete and shallow, and has several easily apparent inaccuracies. The language is partisan. If has just cut staff to focus on local news, it indeed has it's work cut out. Good luck.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 9:48 p.m.

'Corporate profits at an all-time high The richest 1% have 33% of the nation's wealth Yet continually directs our wrath toward police, firefighters, and teachers who have decent benefits.' This person hit the nail on the head. Jobs. Have. Moved. To. China. Can you say "root cause analysis?"


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 1:18 a.m.

Jobs. Have. Moved. To. China. AND are NOT coming back. Get used to it. The private workforce will earn less and get less going forward. That is just the way it is. In the 1920s and 1930s we tried isolationism and reducing foreign trade. That lead to... You know the financial crisis worse than this one. If you shop Walmart or most other big box stores, you are helping to export jobs. China thanks you.

Mike K

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 1:01 a.m.

"Jobs. Have. Moved. To. China. Can you say "root cause analysis?"" Amen to that, but I hesitate to say that " continually directs our wrath toward police, firefighters, and teachers..." If anything, it was simply pointing out a fact - like it or not. I don't see this as a political piece - try as some may.

Macabre Sunset

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 9:46 p.m.

They weren't outmatched at the bargaining table, there simply wasn't any accountability for failure. If these services were privatized, then it would be a fair bargaining session. The city was playing with our money, and knew it could just obtain more if it felt the need. Problem is, there is no more tax money. They spent it all. Then they spent next year's batch, then the following year's batch...


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 9:39 p.m.

Cops in Ann Arbor have been grossly overpaid for decades. Now we see that 24 of them have a base salary of more than $100,000 a year plus benefits equaling at least half that, and there are another 30+ cops who make more than 100K a year with overtime. This is entirely due to incompetent representation of the City in union negotiations, Both City attorneys and administrators were outmatched and gave away the farm every single time they sat down at the bargaining table. Police work is not nearly as dangerous as they'd like us to believe. Both farming and construction work is more dangerous. There is no reason on God's green earth why a police officer should make that kind of money.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 12:24 p.m.

I believe these are earnings with overtime, not base salaries. Just for accuracies sake.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 11:22 p.m.

Yep, there's danger in the construction and farming industries, but the last time I checked with my farmer and construction buddies they did not have to suit up with body armor and weapons at the start of their work shifts. Add to that the daily bizarre stressors of unpredictable human behaviors, working every holiday that should be spent with family, and the uncertainty if you'll go home alive at quitting time -methinks there is no comparison between the dangers of the jobs.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 10:32 p.m.

so do it... since you have it all figured out!


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 8:05 p.m.

The Japan tragedy, on the surface, appears so different from the problems in this local story...but could their approach to the disaster possibly hold any application for us here? see below ***** She was old, alone, injured, in pain. When the quake struck, a bookshelf toppled onto H. Yamashita, pinning her down, shattering her ankle.When paramedics came hours later, she did what she said anyone would do, her son-in-law recounted later: She apologized to them for the inconvenience, and asked whether they should tend to others first. The quake left a trail of blazing buildings, flattened communities, wrecked roads and unstable nuclear plants. But it barely dented the implacably Japanese trait of showing concern for others, even in worst of circumstances. The Japanese language is full of apologies, uttered so often as to be nearly meaningless: I am about to make a nuisance of myself-please excuse me! Some of this is formality, but in a crisis, manners can be the glue that holds the country together. As their world fell apart, few would imagine burdening a stranger with anxieties. Some resent the stifling conformity that can accompany such social mores. Even in modern-day Japan, speaking one's mind or making an overt demand can lead to ostracizing. But the grained instinct for orderliness, calm has kept hold even amid tragedy. The quake knocked out much of the reliable public-transportation system. Yet when trains finally appeared on a few routes, the queue was as orderly as on any commuting day. "It would be uncivilized to push and shove," Kojo said. They looked uncomfortable when asked what had happened to them the day before. If pressed, they would tell: trapped in an elevator for hours, crouched in a swaying building. Some were still telling stories when the train pulled into a station where a small gap was between the door and dock. Everyone in the car called to a departing passenger: Kiotsukete! Careful!


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 9:37 p.m.

If you are going to allow TOTALLY off topic remarks, you better allow rebutals to them.

Seasoned Cit

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 7:14 p.m.

Some numbers are missing in the totals: How about adding in the values of the benefit packages to the City Employees listed? Also: Let's also see some ink on the requirements for retirement for City Employees? Does 20 and out.. still apply ? and if so.. how do these requirements compare with the general public?


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 7:13 p.m.

Unions collect dues from the employee, regardless of your political affiliation, republican, democrat or independent, they support only the democratic liberals with millions to insure they can rip off the tax payer, kind of like Ann Arbor. America wake up, union memberships are on a decline and within the next 10 years they'll be out of business just like the small business owners who could not offset overheads due to union pressures. Last time I checked no one put a gun to your head and said you need to be a police officer or firefighter, if it's too hot in the kitchen, leave, same with teachers.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 10:30 p.m.

grab your garden hose and gun... in your darwinian world you will certainly need them. And plan on not having anymore holiday's or weekends or vacations either.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 8:21 p.m.

The Supreme Court of USA recently changed the law to allow corporations to secretly, unaccounted for, donate unlimited amounts of $$ to elections. Now tell me who has more money. Unions who get their political donations from working people or the amount of legally undisclosed $$ available from Corporations, CEO's and their lobbyists??


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 8:10 p.m.

What kind of person do you expect to step up to be a teacher, police officer, or firefighter? I'm really asking.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 6:59 p.m.

@BornNRaised...You are quick to slam anyone that has a viewpoint that differs from yours. And no, these are people of high integrity. Nice to see you slam an entire industry. The Ann Arbor banking community will be pleased to read your opinion. Any credibility you had was just flushed. By the way you forgot to slam the realtors?


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 12:58 a.m.

@yourdad...I am not slamming union members. I am slamming employees that through at least 3 decades of negotiations have failed to recognize that they need to be part of the solution. Giving up 4% and holding onto that just does not do it. What makes a ff or pd any better than any other city employee. Don't give me the junk about danger, training or hours worked. There are many other jobs out there that are much more dangerous, require more training and more hours than ff or pd. I mentioned bankers because one of your buddies made the ridiculous point that ff and pd cannot afford to live in Ann Arbor which is total nonsense. I could care less what union you are in or job you have. As I have said, a city employee is a city employee and co-pays should be required and the burden of cost shared equally.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 10:27 p.m.

Wait just one darn minute... a2roots can slam every union member anywhere in the area and make some of the most uneducated assumptions about the taxpaying members that work many more hours per year than a typical corporate job. BUT, when bornNraised makes an assumption about the very industry that is widely considered to be at the very core of our national financial crisis, he/she gets slammed by a banker??? FYI... 40 job is 2200hrs per year/ 24hours FF shifts equals 2800 hours per year (in rounded figures). When you put in 600 hours of overtime to get their base let us know.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 8:17 p.m.

I didn't know that CEO's have a union


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 6:53 p.m.

Easy, unions are haves, non unions have nots.

David Paris

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 10:57 p.m.

And you'd rather take from the "haves", or give to the "have nots"?

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 8:59 p.m.

1) Did you even read the article? Apparently not. The comparison is fire and police benefits to other A2 city employees, some represented by unions, others not. 2) The reason that the union members "have" is that collectively they have power where individuals don't. If the city doesn't want to pay these benefits, it needs to bargain better. 3) One presumes you have "less". So why are you angry that union members have "more"? Why not anger with your employer? Bizarre logic at operation here. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 6:42 p.m.

I cannot remember a more blatantly biased piece from a new organization that claims to be nonpartisan and objective. Phrases like "cozy contracts" and "glaringly obvious" and "low deductible" are not statements of fact. Cozy by whose judgment? Glaring in whose opinion? Low compared to what standard? You have the right to these opinions, but they are opinions. I expect to see them in the comment section, not in the article. Shame on you.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 6:41 p.m.

To AAgradstudent: What field are you going in, and after being their for several years, what will you be making in both salary and benifits? I know when I first started out, I had high expenses and low income also. You can always choose to be a firefighter or police officer and live high off the hog as alot of the people commenting, believe. Or you may someday run company, become a multi-millionaire, run for office, become a Governor, and not move into the Governor's mansion, because it would be a down grade to your current living arrangments/life style. So many choices, Good Luck.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 6:50 p.m.

run a company... My bad.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 6:34 p.m.

@sh1...Just in case you don't read my reply... I know many loan officers that will gladly show you how to finance a home in Ann Arbor based on your income. Assuming of course your credit is good. As well, I can provide you a list of realtors that will gladly show you homes to purchase or rent. In fact if you got some of your brethren to move into the city it could help out the economy here. Where you chose to live is up to you. I however do not appreciate you slamming my hometown at every opportunity, using scare tactics and walking away with a fat paycheck that I as a taxpayer help pay.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 8:09 p.m.

I don't know what you mean. I live and work in Ann Arbor. And be careful about recommending those home loans. I think a few people have had issues recently...


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 6:24 p.m.

This is the type of egregious over reaching and entitlement that leads to egregious over reaching laws to reel it in. I wonder if Snyder is paying attention to what happened in Wisconsin? I wonder if the unions are? Perhaps the unions should offer concessions and live to fight another day, rather than lose the war, as happened in Wisconsin. But, they probably won't, because they are, after all, unions and the leopard can't change it's spots.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 1:55 a.m.

We live in interesting times.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 8:23 p.m.

eyeheart: the egregious overreaching by the legislature and governor has already started. The just approved (but yet to be signed) EFM bill gives the EFM the power to nullify union contracts. It is unconstitutional (violates Article 1, Section 10 of the US Constitution). The law also raises all sorts of due process and equal protection issues, but those are difficult to tease out and are subject to interpretation. this is, as they say, "black letter:. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 5:56 p.m.

I am a student and I pay $1700 a year for health insurance and I have no income. My copays are absurd and the University of Michigan requires that I have health insurance for the field I am going into. I can't believe how little these workers with an income pay for health insurance.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 8:07 p.m.

As students, they were likely in your same place. Why begrudge them that they got jobs with benefits? Hopefully, you will have one too someday.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 5:51 p.m.

Mike says: Just fire all the public employees and bring (some of) them back on at market rates through contract agencies. Problem solved. Really Mike? Really?. I'm willing to bet a majority of the Police Officers would be getting a raise, if they were paid the market rate most companies offer. We certainly do not face the same hazards, danger and situations the Police and Fire do on a daily basis. So quit complaining how great they have it until you have walked in their shoes. I don't know of anyone getting rich working as Police in Fire in Ann Arbor, Mi do you,Mike? Please do enlighten us.......

Chase Ingersoll

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 5:49 p.m.

Note that Ann Arbor Police and Fire salaries are much hire than the averages listed here and one might check to see if the death and accident rates are not also significantly lower. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 5:02 p.m.

A2roots is right.  I could go on and on about how tough these jobs are.  I could go on and on about how many people have had to have Backs, Shoulders and Knees repaired.  How much wear and tear on a person that firefighting takes on a body.  I could go on and on about how we deal with the sick and indigent population that the city welcomes in.  Those people that are exposed to all sorts of virus' that we are in turn exposed to and then take home and infect our families.  I am guessing that most of the non-union employees that don't have the same insurance probably dont have the same exposures and chronic injuries that the police and firefighters have.  We did pick these jobs and I am not complaining.  But if you want to compare us to an office worker keep in mind the differences in our jobs.  Ryan - could you word that poll with anymore slant to get the results you want?  &quot;they have enjoyed a cozy deal for to long?&quot; Really?  You could work for Fox News.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 8:06 p.m.

a2roots, where is the data for all your claims? What have the unions held over the city's head? Who says those with seniority don't take cuts to save their brethren? The teachers did it in their most recent contract to save those who were pink-slipped.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 5:39 p.m.

There are plenty of other occupations that put wear and tear on the body. I worked for the city 30 years ago when this disparity started. The unions have held it over the city's head since. Well guess what? The economy has changed and the golden goose must go away or many of your colleagues will be out of a job. Most of those with seniority will not co-pay to save their brethren. What does that say?


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 4:43 p.m.

Didn't the City of Ann Arbor win their health care package in the last Public 312 award? So after they win what they are seeking, in regards to health care they are still upset about it? Why didn't they seek more cost sharing from the unions last time then? Nancy Niemela is saying that the union has no incentive to bargain with the city because their contracts are still upheld during the negotiation process. So the city is going to complain about what they have done to the unions consistently through the years.? It would take a city union over 3 years to get the city to bargain and agree to a contract. Nancy is preaching do as I say not as I do. So was there any incentive for the city to bargain if they can freeze wages and benefits of their unions for over three years? Did they get penalized for this. No. One can not blame Public Act 312 as the City of Ann Arbor is contending. Public Act 312 is not the norm for settling contracts with unions. The city and police officers association went to binding arbitration for their last contract and the City won their health care concessions amongst other things. The previous time that the city and police union went to Arbitration for a contract was way back in 1983. Sounds to me like the police union really uses Public Act 312. So the city is way late in the game in asking for cost sharing for health care and they are going to blame the unions instead of accepting responsibility for their failures. Shame on them and the elected officials the tax payers elect.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 4:34 p.m.

Glad you pointed that out!


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 4:21 p.m.

@ Hot Dice So you long for the &quot;good Ole Days&quot;. When you had very little opportunity to voice your displeasure with ANY print publication or their articles. While there seems to be less &quot;investigative reporting&quot; There certainly is no lack of opportunity for us as tax payers or readers to voice our opinions. Is it surprising that most stories are just the passing on of information they get from other sources? How many of us do our banking online, do our shopping online, do most if not all communicating online or twitter? This town did not buy enough newspapers to support the print media so this is what we get. How many of us would go out and beat the bushes for the compensation this staff gets? Try the NY Times or the Free Press or maybe the Chelsea Standard or Dexter Leader for all your news. If you don't like it get it somewhere else! And I have been censored more than a few times for my comments here.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 4:39 p.m.

&quot;The Ann Arbor News was struggling as a daily print newspaper, with steep losses in 2008,&quot; said Champion, who will be executive vice president of LLC. &quot;At the same time the demand for local news and information in a wired community has never been stronger.&quot; <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Hot Dice I can't disagree with the entertainment value!

Hot Dice

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 4:33 p.m.

I actually agree with a lot of what you're saying, especially the part about getting my news elsewhere. I mostly come here for the entertainment found in the comment sections.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 4:29 p.m.

My understanding (and I am going by my recollection and do not have the time to find the source of the info I remember, so take it for what it's worth) is the The Ann Arbor News actually was profitable at the time they closed. The parent company used Ann Arbor as a test site, so to speak, to see if an online venture might work and be profitable, perhaps more so than the daily print version. So, if my recollection is accurate, Ann Arbor DID buy enough newspapers to keep The Ann Arbor News afloat (at least at the time; it wouldn't surprise me if profits were declining), but they closed nonetheless.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 4:15 p.m.

Mr. Rapalundo, I find it unrealistic that you are shocked that contracts approved by council have provisions in them that you approved. I'm not sure I care whether it is incompetance or deceit. As long as the voters elect representatives like this there will always be problems.

Hot Dice

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 4:05 p.m.

Emotive and leading language in a headline for something that's not an opinion or a column... must be What a joke this publication has become.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 4:04 p.m.

Maybe the police officers and firefighters should work for free, since this is their CHOSEN profession, and they choose to be there. (Look at all of the money the city could save). But then Stephen Rapundalo would say, while shaking his head and a look of distaste frozen in his eyes, why pay all of the heating cost and electricity cost that the public buildings consume, why not have the employees who work in those buildings pay for it, since they directly benifit from it? After all, in this day and age, I pay my own home heat and electric bills, why should I pay for theirs too?


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 8:03 p.m.

That's right! I don't want my tax dollars spent on cozy, warm workplaces to coddle the lazy do-nothings!

Joel A. Levitt

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 4:03 p.m.

Why is anyone surprised? We are not surprised that different city employees with different responsibilities, different educational requirements, who take different risks have different salaries. We have usually deferred costs by paying lower salaries and providing better fringe benefits and job stability. So, it follows that we provide different fringe benefits. So?


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

@A2Roots, why do you think firefighters would work in Ann Arbor but not live here? Do you think it might be because their salaries are not high enough to support the cost of living and taxes in Ann Arbor? Be careful that you don't defeat your own argument.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 8:02 p.m.

Firefighters pay taxes, too. And what do you mean by scare tactics? Their willingness in their last contract to take pay cuts?


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 5:45 p.m.

There incomes are certainly worthy enough of purchasing and or renting in Ann Arbor. I spent 30 years in banking of which 8 were with the city. I know what the incomes can buy. Be careful who you take on. What irritates me as taxpayer and one that likes this city is the constant scare tactics and unwillingness of ff and pd to pay their fare share. As my employee and a non-resident I do not appreciate you slamming my city when I am the one putting food on your table and clothing your family.

larry kramer

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

What are Roger Fraser's health and pension benefits. How about the rest of the city managers?


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:43 p.m.

About time put out the number. I have been requesting this for quite some time. FF and PD cannot hide anymore. It is time for them to pay their fair share. Sure they will throw out the scare tactic and tell us how tough their jobs are. You picked it not me. In today's economy very few employees get away without contributing to their health care if they are so lucky to have it. This pork barrel golden goose has got to go away. One more thing that should also be published is the residency of our ff and pd. The percentage that live in Ann Arbor is minimal. Yet, they harp about Ann Arbor all the time. Bottom line is if you do not like it here and do not want to pay your fair share then the taxpayers of Ann Arbor should request that you all be fired. There are many well qualified replacements waiting in line for your job. And you know what, the replacements will appreciate it and so will this taxpayer.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 8:51 p.m.

@lester88...The nature of ones job should not dictate what their co-pay is. A city employee is a city employee. I spent over 8 years in that building. How many years are under your belt in city hall? If the building is or was a hazard and that was concealed then that is an entirely different issue. Health costs are astronomical and the burden of cost should be shared equitably.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 7:30 p.m.

&quot;you hope that is not the case.&quot; Suppose it is, what then? What's the fair share in exchange for lung cancer Roots?


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 7:27 p.m.

So if the PD has been exposed to Radon and Asbestos and are sick because of it, they should pay more for their healtcare? You say that makes no difference. ?????? I read a report where Radon was 8 times higher than the EPA guidelines in the Larcom basement. Radon is a leading cause of Cancer. If you worked in the Larcom basement, you should be concerned. I think they have paid thier fair share and the city is on the hook for their healthcare forever. I didn't mention the FF's but you tend to link the two, that's another issue and another argument. They did take pay concessions.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

@lester88...I hope this is not the case. I spent 8 years working in that building. I am not a city retiree but it could impact me. My point is that ff and pd should be paying a fair share toward benefits. The work environment and type of work should not give ff of pd a pass card on this.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 4:13 p.m.

And how do you reconcile the Radon and Asbestos issue Roots? My understanding is the city covered up air quality concerns and failed to address hazardous working conditions causing serious health issues within the PD. Radon and Asbestos are leading causes of Cancer and likely have upped city healthcare costs. I'm curious about your thoughts on this.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:41 p.m.

Based on the headline and the fact that it was Ann Arbor, I was expecting the article to talk about how the packages were going to be equalized. Raising the quality of the health care plan and lowering the cost until everyone got the best for the least.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:40 p.m.

This has nothing to do with the rich getting richer! It has to do with the city having recurring budget deficits and these employees with Cadillac style health insurance which we can no longer afford. Most of us do not have defined benefit pensions or no cost health insurance and these benefits need to change with times. I for one don't want to pay more in taxes so these guys can have benefits that cannot get. We've got to live within our means!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 8:54 p.m.

The city has not had a single budget deficit. It cannot. It must balance its budget every year. Maybe if people understood the facts rather than the teaparty fairy tales . . . Never mind. Fairy tales are more fun. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 5:42 p.m.

So there's no connection between the rich getting richer and private sector employees seeing their benefits gutted in recent years?


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:38 p.m.

I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here (shaking his head, a look of distaste frozen in his eyes)! Your winnings, sir.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:29 p.m.

If we can assume that balancing the budget is the top priority. Then we need to look at all of the cost that have put us in this situation. That includes the wasted money on City Hall, the great disparity between publicly funded benefit packages, over the top wages for city administrators and the list is almost endless. But if you are not willing to look at everything then you are often times only trying to score political points. When it comes to publicly funded programs and policies there should be no sacred cows.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:25 p.m.

@tib, you seem to be saying you don't mind if someone makes a LOT more money than you; it's only unfair if they make a little more than you.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 8 p.m.

Maybe I just don't understand what you mean about making things fair.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 4:01 p.m.

sh1: It's tlb, if your are referring to my post. I'm not sure how you got THAT out of what I said. The article is about LOCAL compensation. What I don't understand is why some people seem to want to turn everything into a rant about the wealthy. I'm as dusgusted as anyone at the the way people at the top of corporations are paid, but this isn't about that. It's about cmpensation in our local government. and, no, I'm not upset about people making more than me, if it's fair and competitive compensation for the job they are doing and for their level of performance. I'm just getting sick of the same old whining about off-topic issues by the same old whiners.

Boo Radley

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:20 p.m.

Whenever I hear of a police officer who has been severely disciplined and/or fired for some transgression that would be at most a fine and slap on the wrist for any private employee, it is always said ... &quot;Police Officers Are Held To A Higher Standard&quot;. That's fine, and officers know that going in. But if that is the case, pay them accordingly and stop blaming them for the state of the budget.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:12 p.m.

. . . . City officials say a majority of the employees opt for the high plan, in which they pay $44.31 per month from their paychecks for individual coverage or $119.63 for a family. Because they're sharing the premiums, the deductible is set at $300 for an individual or $600 for a family. WOW.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:09 p.m.

Can I throw-up now? This really is sickening. I have Blue Cross 'Option D' for two healthy adults . . . . $1,000.00 per year deductible . . . monthly expense $708.00. These coddeled, under worked and over paid public sector &quot;entilted employees&quot; are ripping us off and laughing at us all.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:35 p.m.

Please keep in mind that these benefits have been negotiated by your elected officials with the very highly paid consultants giving them the thumbs up. Oh yea, and a bad day at your job probably doesn't include the various types of stress that causes very high rates of heart disease and death. <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;src=sp</a>

Alan Goldsmith

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:05 p.m.

&quot;Being a firefighter ranks 13th and police officers rank 10th in the country for the most dangerous occupation.&quot; Curious where do political hack and news reporter show on this list?

Basic Bob

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:42 p.m.

OK, then let's offer them similar benefits than fishermen, loggers, farmers, structural construction workers, and sanitation workers. These jobs are all more dangerous and lower paid than police officers. I bet some of the city's sanitation workers can see some sense in this, but they may not be able to afford a computer and Internet service.

Alan Goldsmith

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:04 p.m.

Congrats The lede line for this story just made me so appalled with the low level quality of journalism at your publication that I just called to cancel my subscription. This after being an Ann Arbor News/ subscriber since 1973. &quot; It's early on a Friday morning and Ann Arbor City Council Member Stephen Rapundalo is shaking his head, a look of distaste frozen in his eyes.&quot; To allow THIS quote from a political hack, with a passage from a reporter that actually says 'distaste frozen in his eyes' like some cheap 50s noir novel shows either you don't have a clue about slanted news coverage or you do and don't care. Either way, until reporters and editors like the ones responsible for this sort of 'news story' are gone, you won't be getting any money from me. I was skeptical of all the early promises would cover local news in an in depth and world class level way, but was willing to give you a chance. Time's up.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 5:59 p.m. pay to get the paper or electronic version of We'll see if you hold true to your word and never read or post a comment on again.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 4:57 p.m.

Alan, don't go! I always enjoy your comments.

Tom Wieder

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3 p.m.

I'm not sure that I understand the point of this article. The headline focuses on &quot;disparities&quot; between benefits for different labor groups. So what if there are? Perhaps, one employee bargaining unit sought higher wages, and settled for a more spartan benefit package, and another unit did the opposite, producing disparities in benefits. The only thing that really should matter to City Hall and taxpayers is the total compensation cost (wages and benefits) being paid to city workers. If the City is paying more than necessary, as measured by compensation packages offered in the market for people with comparable skills, that's a problem, and City Hall must bring these costs into line with the market. If not, why should we care if benefits are &quot;cushy,&quot; or one group's benefits are better than another's? It's the total dollar cost that matters. (One caveat: Health plans that require little or no co-pays, and low deductibles, may produce costly and wasteful &quot;overuse&quot; of health care services, so everyone might be better off if these plans are changed.) If the current arbitration system makes it difficult for the city to bring (or keep) costs into line with the market, it probably should be changed. Unfortunately, and intended or not (I believe the latter is the case), this story, coming at this particular time, plays right into the GOP theme that public employee unions are theprimary reason for government budget problems.


Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 11:33 p.m.

Unions are a major cause of what is wrong with our economy.

John B.

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 10:21 p.m.

Nothing about this 'article' is unintended. It's a desperation move.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:26 p.m.

Well said, if we could get some comparable numbers from communities that AA wants to be compared to on an objective basis we might be better informed.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3 p.m.

&quot;Where can HE sign up? Once you've pulled someone out of a burning building Rapundalo, THEN get back to us&quot; Ok, enough already with the bloviating over how dangerous public sector jobs are, stay on task and quit ignoring the facts. Being a firefighter ranks 13th and police officers rank 10th in the country for the most dangerous occupation. The top 9 occupations are almost all private sector jobs, so please stop it with these worn out &quot;talking points&quot;. Good Day


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3 p.m.

&quot;As far as overall compensation packages go, they're fairly bargained for and that's what a contract is — the consensus of both management and the union of what was fair. So, I mean, that stands on its own.&quot; I think Matt Schroeder has a fair point. When you negotiate, you might give up something in terms of salary to maintain good health coverage. The union doesn't call all the shots, the city has a responsibility to effectively negotiate what is fair and what can be afforded. I would like to see a comparison of the overall compensation packages in Ann Arbor versus other cities in Michigan. I'm pretty sure Ann Arbor would show exceptionally competitive compensation packages. Keep in mind Ann Arbor is a more expensive place to live, so it stands to reason it will take more to attract and retain quality employees. Overall, I am very pleased with the quality of Ann Arbor's public servants. I think highly competitive compensation packages will help ensure the high quality services we all enjoy are maintained.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:57 p.m.

Bargaining in a blog is an unfair labor practce. Hmmm, I suspect these comments are not what and Rapundalo expected.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:56 p.m.

Gees that &quot;wage&quot; comparison isn't contrived to suit your article is it? What if a deputy chief worked a 30 hr week and a police officer on the beat worked 60 hrs? That chart is a pretty good example of the slant of this website....and of course on your slanted chart, hourly workers will keep being displayed as making &quot;MORE&quot; because as cuts continue they work more and more hours. This should be posted as an opinion piece, not news.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:03 p.m.

Wages are one thing and can fluctuate, but if those numbers for health insurance deductions are correct that's waaaay too cozy. I had medical benefits through an employer sponsored group plan until three years ago but even then our pay deductions were well above the $44 and $119 monthly stated here (try over $200 monthly for single and pushing $750 for family - and it was an HMO plan!)


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:52 p.m.

&quot;Corporate profits at an all-time high The richest 1% have 33% of the nation's wealth&quot; The subject at hand is not about corporate profits, or the wealthiest individuals taking our money. The subject is about local employees paid by WE, the local TAXPAYERS. Get over the petty jealousy and focus on what we can control and make fair at the local. The story is not about what the very wealthy are taking from us, it's about appropriate and fair compensation of public employees. Some things may be out of line and may need to be adjusted given the current economic and budget problems. These things need to be examined even in good times to keep things fair.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:07 p.m.

&quot;The story is not about what the very wealthy are taking from us, it's about appropriate and fair compensation of public employees.&quot; Well, that's kind of my point. The articles we see on and most other media sites frequently get us riled up about 'outrageous' public sector wages and benefits. The fact that corporate profits are at an all-time high? Gets no mention whatsoever.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:59 p.m.

Keeping things fair would have been easier by not extending the tax cuts for the rich.

Ron Granger

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

Once again we are reminded of the absurdity of spending over $40 million on a sparkling new city hall (with art). The voters voted against it multiple times, but the elected &quot;servants&quot; couldn't accept that they don't need posh digs to do their jobs. Maybe they could operate out of a pole barn and lease out the new facility to raise money.

Alan Goldsmith

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:49 p.m.

&quot;It might be easy to point at the pay and benefits these unions are receiving, but let's not forget who negotiated these contracts for the City over the past 8-10 years, spent money like drunken sailors, and now claim that our debt load is no big deal&quot;. You're right on the money Mr. Whitaker. Don't hold your breath expecting this to be covered by anyone at, especially by the reporting staff who has a historic institution memory that apparently goes back to around the time the first iPad was released. No one is asking why the Mayor isn't apologizing for his decade long failure to insure this didn't happen. He takes credit for everything, the blame for nothing.

Alan Goldsmith

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

&quot;It's early on a Friday morning and Ann Arbor City Council Member Stephen Rapundalo is shaking his head, a look of distaste frozen in his eyes.&quot; Are we sure we don't want to rewrite the lede here? It makes you look like a Republican Party hack, shilling for 'ex' Republican Stephen Rapundalo vile and venom directed at people who put their lives on the line every day. Where can HE sign up? Once you've pulled someone out of a burning building Rapundalo, THEN get back to us.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

Just fire all the public employees and bring (some of) them back on at market rates through contract agencies. Problem solved.

David Paris

Mon, Mar 14, 2011 : 10:50 p.m.

Problem solved? Not hardly! I think it's time for the sour grapes to go in the trash, and leave the public employees alone. I know it's really trendy right now to point the finger at hourly employees who earn better-than-poverty wages &amp; benefits, but, you're really looking in the wrong place. Not really your fault, that's what the media is telling you (see above), we ned unions now, more than ever so as to sustain the pay-scale of everyone else before we're all working for peanuts.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:44 p.m.

why doesn't Stephen and the rest of council get out of their nice quiet offices and strap on a gun belt or a turnout coat and see what its like.

Tom Whitaker

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3 p.m.

It's relevant because of Rapundalo's comment, &quot;Where do I sign up?&quot; The police (and maybe fire?) department offers citizens the opportunity to ride along and see what they do first hand. Perhaps Mr. Rapundalo should try this before he &quot;signs up.&quot; The pay and benefits come at a high risk. I'm willing to put my tax money towards rewarding those who choose to assume this risk. I'm not so crazy about Rapundalo's conference center or Hiefte's Fuller Road parking structure, however.

Craig Lounsbury

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:50 p.m.

whats that got to do with a broke city balancing a budget? It is no more relevant than if i suggested a rank and file cop or firefighter put on a suit and balance the budget.

Marshall Applewhite

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:40 p.m.

I'm happy the City is actually taking care of these issues. My property taxes went through the roof this year, and people simply won't be able to afford to live in Ann Arbor proper if steps aren't taken now.

John B.

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 7:45 p.m.

I don't believe your statement for a minute. Property taxes locally aren't 'going through the roof' at all.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:38 p.m.

Ryan Stanton has posted this same story at least seven times. Is this news? Exposure to high levels of Radon and Asbestos? One would think this would be the focus of any health care article or at least worthy of some follow-up. What's the scoop behind that comment from the police union Ryan? They must have some evidence or they would not be making that bold statement. How about some level of investigative journalism instead of just repeating what those involved have to say. Posted March 4, 2011 on AA.Com from Council Member Christopher Taylor: &quot;The condition of the former police station on the first floor of city hall was &quot;particularly troublesome,&quot; Taylor writes, characterizing it as a &quot;cramped quarters&quot; that suffered from leaks, security insufficiencies, radon and asbestos.&quot;

Tom Whitaker

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:26 p.m.

I find it amusing that Mr. Rapundalo, Mr. Fraser and Mr. Hieftje are joining in the Republican mantra from around the country in blaming public sector unions for all our financial ills. This trio, along with a few others, have been in charge of negotiating union contracts for the City for about a decade now. Apparently they've had their butts handed to them at the negotiating table repeatedly over the years, but instead they're blaming the unions. Meanwhile, they've approved huge capital projects that have substantially increased the debt load on the general fund, and skimmed 1% off the top of that for &quot;art&quot; projects. This may explain why arbitrators have little sympathy for the City. After all, it's not &quot;credit card debt,&quot; its only &quot;mortgage debt,&quot; right? And we are well &quot;under our statutory debt limit...&quot; blah blah blah. Aren't we lucky Council Member Taylor laid it all out for the arbitrators that the City's debt is really no problem at all? It might be easy to point at the pay and benefits these unions are receiving, but let's not forget who negotiated these contracts for the City over the past 8-10 years, spent money like drunken sailors, and now claim that our debt load is no big deal.

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 8:15 p.m.

Exactly. Seems to me to be an admission of manifest incompetence at negotiating contracts. Good Night and Good Luck


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:22 p.m.

He's staring at a new report on city employee compensation, pausing at a chart showing what individual workers in each of the city's nine different labor groups contribute toward the cost of their health care benefits. He can't get past the zeros on the page. &quot;Where do I sign up?&quot; &quot;where they can pay sometimes three to six times less for the same medical care, city records show.&quot; One word sums this all up: Insanity !!! Good Day No Luck Needed

Patricia Lesko

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:20 p.m.

&quot;A look of distaste frozen in his eyes...&quot; Seriously? Stephen Rapundalo, Marcia Higgins, Margie Teall, John Hieftje and Leigh Greden (along with Roger Fraser) made up the city's &quot;Labor and Budget&quot; Committee. That was the committee that would have recommended to Council that the contracts outlining those benefits Mr. Rapundalo now finds so utterly revolting and incredible. How did this happen, he wonders? &quot;Where do I sign up?&quot; he asks. He sat on the Council Committee that recommended the contracts for approval, and supervised the City Administrator who supervised the consultants who were paid a bundle to negotiate the contracts. I know how it happened. Five members of Council and the City Administrator recommended the &quot;fairly cozy&quot; contracts be approved. The other council members, then, didn't read the contracts, or if they did, neglected to ask why there were such disparities. When Leigh Greden lost in 2009, as a result, partially, of being held responsible for his work on the Budget and Labor Committee, and in part because the B &amp; L Committee did not include Council members from each Ward, the Committee was split into Budget (Briere and Anglin were appointed) and Labor. On Labor, Kunselman, Anglin and Briere are excluded. Hieftje, Rapundalo, Higgins and Teall sit on the Labor Committee.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 8:05 p.m.

Ryan, if you want to know who the professional negotiators were that the city has hired in the past, ask Nancy Sylvester, AFSCME president

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 6:38 p.m.

I've requested information from the city before regarding any costs for consultants who may be paid to help negotiate the contracts. City officials tell me that's a myth; the city does not use consultants in negotiations. Can you supply evidence to the contrary? As I understand it, the negotiations team consists of Robyn Wilkerson and Nancy Niemela. And depending on the union and the discussion, they may include other city managers and HR personnel in the meetings. No consultants, though.

Mike K

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:17 p.m.

The city paid $5.8 MM MORE for health insurance in 2009 than it would had these benefits been &quot;in-line&quot; with the market. Stay focused here. This isn't about corporate profits or &quot;the rich&quot;; it is about a city trying balance revenues and expeditures. Maybe Walker is on to something?

Mike K

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 5:43 p.m.

I wouldn't say that private sector benefits are being gutted. Costs have indeed increased and yes, they have been passed on to the employees. If you want a taste of the real cost of medical benefits, go on Cobra for a couple months. It's outragous. One can only hope that the Affordable Care Act will indeed make it affordable. But let's not digress, we are talking about the municipality of Ann Arbor, and the costs they incur versus versus other &quot;institutions&quot;. I think we can all agree that no one likes overpaying if they don't have to and that's what is happening here to the tune of $5.8 MM per year.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 5:39 p.m.

Don I think you misread what I wrote. The question I asked was if there's a connection between corporate profits being at an all-time high and PRIVATE sector worker benefits being gutted. My answer is yes. I think the gutting of those benefits is one of the reasons why those profits are so remarkably high. So now public sector benefits look out of line compared to private sector. But is the best answer to gut the public sector? Or to regain the benefits lost by those in the private sector? Private sector workers are understandably angry - they've been gotten punked in recent years. But the anger is directed in the wrong place.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:36 p.m.

Governments don't make Corporate Profits. Corporations do. Property tax supports local governments. There is no link between corporate profits and government benefits, sorry Northside. If you want to change that get your petitions together and go get enough signatures to change the state constitution.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:22 p.m.

So there's no connection between corporate profits being at an all-time high and private sector worker benefits being gutted?


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:09 p.m.

The article successfully hits all the Republican talking points. As for the poll, it seems clear people will only think life is fair when everyone is equally stripped of the perks that made their jobs worth taking in the first place.

Ryan J. Stanton

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

Our apologies to anyone who tried to comment on this story in the first 4 hours it was up today. Somehow there was a technical glitch and comments were not allowed on this article. That has been fixed now.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:05 p.m.

Corporate profits at an all-time high The richest 1% have 33% of the nation's wealth Yet continually directs our wrath toward police, firefighters, and teachers who have decent benefits.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Tue, Mar 15, 2011 : 4:39 p.m.

Is it just because the rich are rich that you want to take their money? The Saudi King has lot's of money (much from the US) Should we just go and take his money too? Is that fair? As a solution, a single buying group made up of all Michigan State workers and all Michigan Local Public sector workers could pool buying power to buy a single health policy. With that kind of buying power could cut insurance cost by 50%.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 3:30 p.m.

Pay your fair share. Times have changed since the golden goose landed on your head.


Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:57 p.m.

First things first: we need to pay attention to the nation's real problems. I don't see Ann Arbor police officers and firefighters making $80,000/year as being the source of our woes. Ditto for Wisconsin schoolteachers making $50,000. Yet we continually see media reports focusing our attention on these 'outrageous' salaries and benefits.

Marshall Applewhite

Sun, Mar 13, 2011 : 2:34 p.m.

Instead of just throwing out some class warfare argument, how about actually proposing a realistic solution other than the one stated?