March 1, 2012

Cranston Police and Fire Retirees Receiving up to $900 on Holidays

Justin Katz

I have no intention of making Anchor Rising an RSS feed for my work on the Ocean State Current, but I think this story is a bit of a doozy.

As the city finds itself downgraded, partly based on the 17.8% funding of its locally administered pension plan, Cranston police and fire retirees are receiving double-and-a-half time for holidays that they do not work and would not be working, anyway.

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"It's a hard job."
"A contract is a contract."
"Bankers and lawyers earn that for sitting around in air conditioning."
"For a long time, they were undercompensated."
"For the things they've seen, they deserve it."
"The city should have made their contributions."
"If you think it's a great job, why don't you apply?"
"While everyone else is running out, they are running in."

That about cover it, status quo apologists?

Posted by: Dan at March 1, 2012 8:42 AM

"I have no intention of making Anchor Rising an RSS feed for my work on the Ocean State Current"

Please do! Some of us have tiny brains and might not remember (initially) that you are also posting interesting stuff on another website.

Posted by: Monique at March 1, 2012 10:58 AM

Although your OSC article goes into great detail listing the exorbitant costs these officers cost the taxpayers you forgot to ask an important question that any good investigator must ask.

Why Jason?

I think we can all agree the payments are rather high and don't appear to make much sense. However, you're floating an idea and just letting it hang there, waiting for the inevitable snarky bs comment from the trolls on the comments section. Look, it was only 61 minutes before Dan took your bait.

You're a full time paid blogger now, dare I say a journalist. Do some more investigation and tell us why they get paid that amount for holidays wether they worked them or not. My experience tells me they gave up something of greater value and this was some sort of compensation. They probably gave up several things over the course of several contracts. When you find out what they gave up calculate how much that would have cost the taxpayers over the years.

You may not agree with the reasoning behind the decision to award the holiday pay but at least we'd have all the information in which to carry out a reasoned debate on the issue (which I thought was the point of AR and OSC).

Go play detective, its fun! Enough of the amateur hour you're a professional now!

Posted by: seirra1 at March 1, 2012 12:12 PM

Well, it took 700 words just to explain "what." Once you start digging into "why," the trail is endless and filled with subjective and distant memories.

Not to say that it's unimportant, but you have to know "what" before the long public discussion of the past can begin. If you've got some hints, I'd love to hear them.

I will make two observations purely from the data:

1. Cranston police and fire so far outstrip the MERS police and fire and their pension system is so underfunded that one shudders to think what they could have given up that would have made things even worse.
2. It is clear from the manipulation of factors from contract to contract (number of days goes down, % of pay goes up) that political posturing was a large part of the "why." Union gives politician a talking point, politician makes sure that the real hit is mild if not fictional. (Not unlike my opinion about pension reform.)

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 1, 2012 12:26 PM

You did a great job explaining the "what". Like I said, not many people will argue with you that getting paid for not working doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense. My department also had holiday pay, though not as lucrative as Cranston. A few of us were just discussing this issue the other day and came to the same conclusion you did. I just think we need some historical context as to the "why" before any conversation can begin.
Your point about the reasoning getting lost over time is accurate, but some one involved in the negotiations is around to fill in the blanks. Despite what many commenters here think the city reps don't walk into the negotiations and turn over the keys to the store. Its like any other negotiation, give and take, back and forth, often times contentious.

Posted by: seirra1 at March 1, 2012 12:52 PM

"Despite what many commenters here think the city reps don't walk into the negotiations and turn over the keys to the store"
Oh YES they do. In 95% of the cases the unions elect the puppets and the puppets then "negotiate" with the puppetmasters.
In the rare event the anti union people win a majority they run into "binding arbitration", "minimum manning" and every other mind-numbing bull**** that exists in this state.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at March 1, 2012 1:48 PM

Hey tommy, NO they don't (see I too can use caps to express my outrage at such a statement). We could go back and forth with the "I know you are but what am I" grade school comeback routine but I'm more interested in a substantive discussion on a serious issue. Put on your big boy pants and attempt to join us if you'd like but the "I know how Rhode Island works" line is pretty tiresome. I'm speaking truthfully from experience, if you have anything useful to add to the discussion have at it.

Posted by: seirra1 at March 1, 2012 2:16 PM


I don't know what your union experience is but for us it was walk in 25 proposals and hopefully walk out with 10 agreements. We never gave up anything but some meaningless management rights. We always started on the plus side because the Town never proposed a zero percent raise. All we did was negotiate the size of the plus. Municipal government was inept. One year we walked in and the Town proposed a reduction in our contribution to the pension plan because the fire department's contribution was lower. They said it was out of convenience to the clerks in the treasurers office. Two problems, theirs was a different plan and ours, unbeknownst to us but known to them, was tanking. The next year they gave us a COLA at our request.
To suggest that something must have been given up in return is not necessarily the case. As far as what was negotiated at the table, you'd need to find some anal retentive note taking bastard to find any remnants of what may have been discussed. I spent many years on a negotiating committee and looking a the contract, I couldn't tell you when never mind how we got what was in there.

Posted by: Max D at March 1, 2012 4:46 PM

Sierra's "why" comment makes no sense. What is he even asking for? Obviously they get paid that much because that's what the union asked for and received through negotiations with the local politicians. "Why" did the politicians accept such terms? Because they are a)corrupt, b)inept, c)self-interested, d)evil, e)stupid, g)etc. We'll never "get to the bottom" of their true motivations, it will vary from politician to politician, and it's rather besides the point. Justin did the right thing by presenting the facts. Reasonable minds can reach their own conclusions about motives and implications for economic sustainability based on those facts.

Posted by: Dan at March 1, 2012 7:13 PM


What am I asking for? I thought it would be obvious, why did the union get holiday pay calculated in such a way. Your response makes no sense. You trot out the usual anti-union buzz words that appeal to those incapable of anything more than an emotional response; "corrupt" "inept" "evil" stupid". Doesn't make for much of a persuasive argument.

The "why" matters to people who have enough intellectual curiosity to think past the response "too bad there's no more money." The "why" matters, perhaps they agreed to forgo raises for the life of the 3 year contract? I don't know, neither do you, neither does Justin. That's why I'm asking.

If you're going to do an investigative piece do it right; who, what, where, when, WHY, how. Otherwise it's a one sided argument.

Don't take this as a personal shot at you, I don't feel it necessary to spend the night posting back and forth with cheap shots. I'm not saying you don't have the intelligence to wrap your head around such matters, we all know you do. Perhaps I expected a more reasoned post from you.

Posted by: seirra1 at March 1, 2012 8:16 PM

Sierra-do you think ANY (see- caps again!) of us is so stupid to not know that the unions have elected double agents and puppets in this state long beyond anyone's memory? And that those double agents and puppets have done the unions bidding?
Example number 1-my choice for GA Scumbag Of The Session-Scott "Disabled Hero Fireman" Guthrie-not to be confused with John "Disabled Hero Cop-not a rapist" Carlevale.
I won't even get into Traficante and Ianazzi here on our school Committee conducting "negotiations" with the unions.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at March 1, 2012 8:49 PM

Sierra - Perhaps this was a lack of clarity on my part, but my list of adjectives wasn't meant as a serious explanation. It was an attempt to illustrate the futility of asking "why" they agreed to such pay - we could ascribe any one of those faults or motivations to them and it wouldn't add any insight to the discussion. We'll never know what went on in somebody's head or behind closed doors. The unions will have their own narrative, the politicians will have another. All we can do is look at the facts, which Justin did us a service by collecting and analyzing, and in this scenario are fairly damning. Obviously something was out of balance and greatly in the union's favor during that negotiation session, if you could even call it that. Why do the Providence firefighters and police get pensions that double in value every 11.9 years for the rest of their lives? Who cares why - it needs to end and quickly.

Posted by: Dan at March 1, 2012 9:35 PM

Tommy-"double agents" and "puppets". The moon landing was faked and the mafia assassinated JFK too right. Your delusional.

Dan-I don't think it's that difficult to find out what went on during contract negotiations. Yes, we may never know what one partys motivation was for asking for or accepting something (such as holiday pay) but what we could learn is what was given up or exchanged.

As for Providence PD and FD doubling their retirement every 11.9 I believe that's just the group who retired under Cianci's deal in the late 80s early 90s? I could be wrong. My personal opinion, bad deal for the City, shouldn't have been allowed.

Posted by: seirra1 at March 1, 2012 10:34 PM

"I don't think it's that difficult to find out what went on during contract negotiations."

Oh, quite to the contrary. I would pay good money for those transcripts, or simply for the opportunity to sit in and take notes. There are reasons why these things are not done out in the public view.

Posted by: Dan at March 1, 2012 11:24 PM


Personnel contracts are not legislation, which can remain in force until specifically repealed, nor can they be used to supersede the governmental apporpriations process, which in a democracy starts fresh with every legislative session.

And if a bunch of political yahoos decided it would make their jobs easier to pass unreaonsable costs to people 10-20-30 years down the line, there's no requirement to "give something back" to fix what were bad, self-serving decisions in the first place.

Posted by: Andrew at March 1, 2012 11:32 PM

"As for Providence PD and FD doubling their retirement every 11.9 I believe that's just the group who retired under Cianci's deal in the late 80s early 90s?"

That's correct, and nearly every eligible person in those departments took advantage of it at the time (if they weren't eligible, they quickly "became" eligible through disability fraud). So around half of the retirees from those departments currently have 5-6% COLAs, which will reach $1 million/year if they live into their 90's. My study of the history of the Providence retirement board has not unearthed anything that was "exchanged" for these absurd benefits - the unions held a majority of the posts on the board at the time, nothing more. Nor would it particularly matter if anything had been exchanged, because $1 million/year pensions will destroy any city's finances regardless of any meager concessions made at that time.

Posted by: Dan at March 2, 2012 11:31 AM

To pretend that the public unions haven't been electing double agents and puppets to do their bidding on school committees, city councils and the legislature for decades is either disingenuous or a frightening delusion.

"A contract is a contract, until we file Chapter 9 and the coach reverts to pumpkin status"
R. Flanders and
the people of Stockton California

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at March 2, 2012 12:38 PM

"the mafia assassinated JFK"
No, a progressive Castro loving atheist left type did.

Posted by: Tommy Cranston at March 2, 2012 12:41 PM

Dan-I agree with you on the Prov pensions at 5-6% being wrong. I don't think they were given in exchange for something either. The problem I have is that these are now the standard reference point for all pensions both in Prov and across the state. For every one person on these outlandish pensions there are another 10 who have a modest pension. One that, on its own, doesn't pay the bills and requires another job. Which I don't have a problem with, retirees are generally only middle-aged by that point anyways.

Posted by: seirra1 at March 2, 2012 7:14 PM

"The problem I have is that these are now the standard reference point for all pensions both in Prov and across the state."

I'm all for a rational analysis of the retirement system. Regardless of what some may say, this isn't a political issue for me - it is a fiscal sanity issue. I support rational and sustainable retirement systems, which is why I support the new 401k-style Federal system I'm on that has been in place since 1987. The old system is far more generous but it couldn't keep going forever and I recognize that. I don't think either side should exaggerate, which is why I try to present only facts and my interpretation of those facts.

"For every one person on these outlandish pensions there are another 10 who have a modest pension."

I honestly don't know about the state as a whole, but the problem is that this isn't the case in Providence. Around 1/4 of Providence retirees are on the crazy 5-6% COLA system.

Posted by: Dan at March 2, 2012 7:27 PM

"The problem I have is that these are now the standard reference point for all pensions both in Prov and across the state."

When those 5 - 6 percent COLA's were handed out most cops and fire fighters were flabbergasted. It was double the norm. It wasn't long before they were cut off and the law suits flew. If my memory serves me correct, a larger portion of the retired members of the police bargaining unit settled at 3 percent while a few stayed in and were reinstated at 5 - 6 percent after the city lost their case. I don't know about the retired fire fighters. Now the standard is 3 percent non-compounded. Even that's become wishful thinking.

Posted by: Max D at March 2, 2012 9:38 PM
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