Macon officers push to unionize

About 130 Macon police officers have expressed interest in forming a union in the wake of rising insurance costs, loss of incentive pay and the city’s failure to put a pay scale in place.

Police Sgt. Steve Draper said word spread after a group of 18 officers had meetings with the Teamsters’ Law Enforcement League over the past several months.

The Law Enforcement League represents 35,000 police officers in 26 states, said Jim Romar, a national field representative for the organization.

A special election will be scheduled within the police department once 140 to 150 officers, who hold the rank of sergeant or below, fill out registration cards, Draper said.

“If we get 51 percent, we will unionize,” he said.

If officers vote to unionize, the department could be the first police department in the state partnering with a professional labor organization, Romar said.

“These guys are breaking the ice,” he said, adding the election could take place within the next couple of months.

While Georgia is a “right to work” state, unions aren’t outlawed, Romar said. “(It means) people aren’t forced to join,” he said.

Mayoral spokesman Andrew Blascovich said city attorneys are researching prior union precedent across the state.

He declined further comment, saying “we’ll wait to see what that research brings to fruit.”

If police unionize, officers will draw up a contract to present to city officials, Draper said.

He said officers would fight for better equipment and to improve officer retention rates.

But there also are initiatives the union would support that wouldn’t cost the city money, such as allowing officers to participate in Social Security, Draper said.

“We’re not here to break the city,” he said.

If officers approve of a union, Romar said officers will benefit from the Law Enforcement League’s expertise relating to inherent problems police officers face, such as safeguarding pensions.

Phone messages left for the police chief and deputy chief were not returned Monday.

Draper said officers haven’t met any opposition from the department’s administration.

Officers interested in unionizing met Monday morning with Deputy Chief Mike Carswell.

“He was real open to it,” Draper said. “He understood where we’re coming from.”