Ashwaubenon Must Pay Officers Historic Retirement Benefits and Vacation Pay

Hawks Quindel recently notched another victory for working people in Wisconsin. Appearing before the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission staff arbitrator, Attorney Aaron Halstead secured more than $10,500 in retirement benefits and annual vacation pay for the public safety officers of the Village of Ashwaubenon, as well as an order that the Village must maintain past practice related to both of these benefits into the future.

Collective Bargaining Agreement with Public Safety Officers Union Ensured Benefits

Unlike most municipalities in Wisconsin, the Village of Ashwaubenon operates a Public Safety Department that provides law enforcement, firefighting, and paramedic and EMT services to the community. The Village’s public safety officers are represented by the Ashwaubenon Public Safety Officer’s Association (APSOA)—a union organized and led by the public safety officers themselves. The union members’ retirement benefits and annual vacation benefits are governed by a collective bargaining agreement with the Village. In January of each year, APSOA members receive vacation time for any sick leave hours they did not use in the preceding year. Then, at retirement, APSOA members receive are compensated for their unused sick leave, compensatory time, and vacation time.

For decades, the Village paid out these benefits at the correct hourly rate. Then, in 2019, the Village suddenly changed course and began compensating public safety officers at a lower rate. The result: Hardworking law enforcement officers, firefighters, and paramedics, who had responsibly managed their annual family finances and retirement plans, were suddenly and unexpectedly out thousands of dollars.

Union Lawsuit Challenged Violation of Collective Bargaining Agreement

The APSOA filed two grievances, arguing these unilateral changes violated the parties’ collective bargaining agreement. Attorney Halstead, who has represented the APSOA since 1995, pursued the grievances on behalf of the union’s members through the final and binding arbitration process. In arbitration, Attorney Halstead demonstrated that the Village had an unbroken, decades-long practice of compensating APSOA members at the correct rates. He argued that any deviation from these practices required the Village to return to the bargaining table. In post-hearing briefing, the APSOA argued that the Village’s conduct violated the collective bargaining agreement and the APSOA’s members were entitled to compensation for the Village’s violations. Arbitrator Raleigh Jones agreed.

Union Wins Arbitration Decision and Ensures Future Benefits and Pay

In his February 26, 2021 Award, Arbitrator Jones ordered the Village to fully compensate the public safety officers for the annual and retirement benefits they had rightfully earned. Further, the APSOA secured a guarantee that any changes to their benefits would be subject to the collective bargaining process, as Wisconsin law requires. The Award was a 100% victory for the public safety officers of Ashwaubenon—and another example of Hawks Quindel’s commitment to the working people of Wisconsin.

If you like to discuss concerns you might have with labor, employment, or other workplace issues, call a Madison attorney directly at (608) 257-0040 or a Milwaukee attorney at (414) 271-8650, or email us via our Contact Page.

 

Aaron Halstead
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