Michigan Association of Police

By Jennifer Gomori, MAP Editor

When Berkley Police Service Aides decided it was time for them to unionize, they only interviewed one Union – Michigan Association of Police (MAP) – because they were so impressed with what they heard.

The group, made up of primarily Dispatchers and Dispatch Supervisors and one Animal Control Officer, reached out to MAP based on a recommendation from a local police officer and they were not disappointed. The nine member unit voted unanimously to join the Union in October 2023. MAP Director Chad Trussler got to work negotiating their first contract in late November and was joined by their new MAP Business Agent Chris Belling.

Before Berkley Police Service Aides Local Union President Shawn Knight joined the unit two years ago, they had made an attempt at unionization with another agency, but were not pleased with the information they received and did not hold an election to join. Talking with Trussler was the real impetus for change.

“I had come from a union background prior to Berkley. I asked if others were interested in joining and everybody was on board,” he said. “Immediately Chad and I just clicked with my union background and his union background,” he said. “When he came in and gave his presentation, the group didn’t want to interview anybody else. They told me to stop calling other unions.”

Knight emphasized that his unit doesn’t have any problems with the Employer and, in fact, the Employer supported their move to unionize. They just felt the way they were being compensated should be changed.

“The City Dispatchers were part of the merit system with other General City Employees and the General Employees are not unionized, which I was surprised about,” Knight said. “The merit system didn’t really fit what we did as dispatchers. It’s really geared toward City Hall Employees. We noticed our wages weren’t comparable with other cities around us. This was purely a wage, hour, and working condition reason to join.”

Berkley Police Service Aides wanted their job responsibilities clearly defined and to have a say in their employment and compensation package. 

“We really just chose to unionize because there was no real structure for dispatch. Between the Dispatchers and Administration and City Manager there are no hard feelings.  There’s nothing they did that forced us to unionize,” he said. “There’s nothing negative other than the fact that we didn’t have a voice. You just had to take what the City was going to give you. There were some things we shouldn’t have been doing that were not within our scope of work. There hadn’t been a pension increase in years. We were at-will Employees and that didn’t sit well with the majority of us.”

Since the Employees are faced with critical decisions daily, they also wanted some protections that MAP could provide them. “Being a Public Safety Dispatcher, if something goes wrong on the phone we have no recourse. They could just fire us,” Knight said. “City officials asked if there was anything they could do differently. I said, ‘Well, can you eliminate that we are at-will Employees?’”

Knight was told the City could not grant his request so he told the officials the Police Service Aides needed to unionize. “The Director and Manager were both pro-union. They didn’t have a problem.” Knight said.

While contract talks were just starting, becoming MAP members really put the entire unit at ease.

“So far people just seem much more positive about what the future holds,” Knight said in November. “Everything works smoothly. If I make a phone call, I get a return call quickly. When I ask for information, it seems to go smoothly. At this point everything is great!”