CHICAGO — Controversy continues to surround ongoing contract talks between the city and the head of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Last Friday, police union president John Catanzara said a deal in principle was in place and awaited Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s signature. On Monday, Lightfoot says he was mistaken. Thus, a contentious two-step between parties ensues.
The latest development comes a little over four years since the city and the Chicago police rank-and-file union, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, have had a labor contract.
“There’s reason to be optimistic. The light at the end of the tunnel is near,” Catanzara said last Friday in a video posted to YouTube. “This is an 8-year agreement. I can tell you much. Beyond that, I’m going to have to hold my tongue.”
Yet Lightfoot, fresh off a return from California, pushed back.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Contract talks remain stalled between Mayor, FOP
“My team is evaluating the proposal and we will have more to say about it one way or the other but unfortunately, Mr. Catanzara’s announcement that there’s a deal is just simply wasn’t correct,” the mayor said.
In May, FOP members gave Lightfoot a vote of no-confidence.
Around the same time, the mayor took the unusual step of publishing an open letter to officers, encouraging them to push their union leaders to support a new contract. Among other benefits, the mayor said many officers could receive a much as $20,000-30,000 in back pay and put the stalled contract talks on union leadership.
“They haven’t gotten a wage increase in four years. And why? Because the current administration of the FOP has decided that the best strategy is to do nothing,” Lightfoot previously said.
However, Catanzara disputed that claim. An independent check by WGN revealed negotiations were indeed taking place. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the law department reveals outside lawyers the city hired to negotiate with the FOP have billed taxpayers $889,834.36 since 2017.
Amid a federal consent decree, the FOP and the city have been divided on police disciplinary issues.
While Catanzara was upbeat Friday on crossing the finish line, saying in part, “I know some people thought this was impossible,” when reached by phone on Monday, he accused the mayor of playing games.
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